10 Natural Ways To Get Your Blood Pressure Down
We all know about high blood pressure – for some of us it is a bit of a joke – that thing that happens to cranky, unpleasant, angry old men. If you close your eyes you can just see the cartoon of the office slave being chastised by the angry big boss with the red nose, bulging eyes and fist banging on the desk. Of course someone that unpleasant deserves high blood pressure – his blood probably boils on a regular basis!
The thing is that you don’t have to be angry (or a wealthy, impatient, bullying capitalist) to suffer from high blood pressure. The disease can be asymptomatic for years, that is you won’t even know that you have it but, little by little, year by year the higher than normal pressure of the blood in your body will cause stress and damage to your blood vessels. For many people the condition develops slowly, over the course of years but for others it can come on suddenly as a complication of another disease such as sleep apnea or thyroid problems.
Left untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart problems, strokes, vision and memory problems and a whole host of other nasty things that you don’t want to have to deal with. It is for this reason that doctors monitor blood pressure regularly; it means that at the slightest sign that pressure is getting too high, you can start treatment for it and prevent potentially more serious issues from cropping up.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure it is important that you follow your doctor’s advice and take the medications that he or she recommends. There are, however, several other things you can do to control your blood pressure naturally and we have set out 10 of the most effective of these in the article below. If you follow these 10 methods you may find that you manage to bring your blood pressure under control enough that your doctor will reduce or end your prescription (while monitoring your pressure carefully of course). These 10 suggestions are simple and easy to follow and are worth doing so even if you do not have high blood pressure as they can help to promote a healthy lifestyle – what have you got to lose?
10. Get Moving. Exercise!
It can be so tempting to sit down and relax, particularly if you are not feeling well, are unfit or suffering from a condition which has caused your blood pressure to rise. Sadly while this might feel good in the short term (who doesn’t love relaxing on the couch) it can do you irrevocable harm in the long term.
Regular exercise has been shown to help to moderate blood pressure readings by 4-9 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). This may not sound like much but it can be enough to help you keep your condition manageable and under control because the risk factors for high blood pressure double for every 20/10mmHg increase in reading.
In order to benefit from exercise you need to make it a regular part of your daily regime – it is not something that you can just stop and start and hope to feel benefits from. As such you should aim to include at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise into your schedule most days. If you are not fit and have not done much exercise you should start gently and work up. Studies have shown that resistance training appears to be the most efficient exercise method for blood pressure management.
9. Cut the Salt.
The typical western diet (and the American diet in particular) contains a huge amount of sodium, sadly far in excess of the recommended daily allowance of 2,300mg a day (less if you have high blood pressure). If you cook your own food at home think about how much salt you add to it while cooking? So many recipes call for a pinch of salt when it is not really necessary. If you eat processed foods the numbers are even worse as salt is added during processing in order to replace the flavor that has been lost through the processing. As if all this was not enough many of us like to add a dash of salt to our meals, irrespective of whether it has been added during cooking or not, it is a bit of a reflex action for many people. However, it is also a dangerous habit because just one teaspoon of salt can put you over your recommended daily allowance.
Recent research may suggest that salt is not the bogeyman we thought it was with regard to high blood pressure but that does not mean that we all have a free pass to eat as much salt as we want. The fact remains that an excessive salt habit is linked to high blood pressure and the medical advice is to eat a low sodium diet if possible and, at the very least to restrict your salt intake to the moderate, recommended levels in order to help reduce your blood pressure.
8. Drop Some LBs
Weight is (pardon the pun) a big problem in the US and in the developed world as a whole. CDC studies for 2011-12 showed that over 35% of US adults aged over 20 were obese and a staggering 69% of Americans over the age of 20 were overweight (this includes the 35% obesity statistic).
These are frightening statistics but obesity and being overweight are more than just image issues, they are conditions that have negative health ramifications as well. In addition to the many other health problems that excess weight can cause it has been linked as a contributory cause of high blood pressure – waist measurements of 40 inches and over for men and 35 inches and over for women put the person at risk for high blood pressure.
Every excess 10 pounds of weight you carry equates to approximately 4mmHg of blood pressure. With that in mind one of the best things you can do for the health of your blood vessels is to cut the pounds and lose weight. This may seem daunting, particularly if you have struggled with your weight for much of your life only to be hit with a diagnosis of high blood pressure but it is an achievable goal. If you follow the advice on many of the other points in this article you will be half way there.
7. Improve Your diet
You will almost certainly have heard the saying that you are what you eat! It can be easy to tell someone to improve their diet but it is a difficult change to make. There is, however, no getting away from the fact that if you have received a diagnosis of high blood pressure problems then the chances are that your diet is less than ideal. Eating overly refined and processed foods can lead to a diet that is too high in sodium (see above), saturated fats and cholesterol all of which can lead to a hardening of the arteries and an increase in the pressure within your vessels.
Research has shown that eating a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables and which replaces ordinary dairy with low fat versions and reduces the amount red meat and of saturated and other fats ingested will typically lead to a reduction in blood pressure when compared to the standard American diet. This is known as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) Diet and because it contains serving guidance rather than lists of foods which are completely banned or insisted on (you do not need to eat quinoa, for example, unless you really want to subject yourself to it!). We are not saying that you will not hanker after a juicy cheese burger and, to be fair you can have one from time to time. Nevertheless, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure it would be better to make the dietary changes now, of your own volition and when you have time to adjust than to stick your head in the sand, continue as you are and end up in an ambulance to the nearest ER with a heart attack in 5 years’ time. Not only that but improving your diet will help you to reduce your sodium intake and manage your weight more effectively – so you get triple the benefits from one action!
6. Skip the Booze.
Do you enjoy the odd glass of wine in the evening or a bottle of beer with your friends? If you do you are not alone, many of us use alcohol to relax but, rather than helping us to de-stress it could be contributing to blood pressure problems. A glass of red wine now and then might confer health benefits but any more than that and you are putting your health at risk for a number of reasons, not least the risk of increased blood pressure. The CDC advise that men drink no more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day with a limit of 1 a day for women. In other countries such as the UK the advice is to drink no more than 14 ‘units’ of alcohol a week for women and 21 for men, spacing the consumption out over the entire week.
Research studies have shown that the alcohol that you drink over the preceding three days can contribute to a raised blood pressure reading. That means that even if you do not drink more than the recommended amount over the course of a week you could still cause yourself problems if your drinking is confined to a relatively short period of time (eg the weekend). Luckily the effects of alcohol on blood pressure are transient and can be reversed by cutting down on consumption and making sure that the alcohol you do drink is in moderate volumes and spaced out over time.
If you drink socially you might find it challenging to reduce your intake, particularly if your friends are encouraging you to have ‘just one more’. Be honest with them about why you are reducing your intake so that they can support and help you. If you struggle to consume no more than the recommended amounts you should seriously consider asking your doctor for help with strategies to reduce your dependence.
5. Relax Man. De-stress.
Does stress cause high blood pressure or does high blood pressure make us more vulnerable to stress? The truth is that the two conditions are inextricably linked. We all experience stress from time to time and, in moderation it is no bad thing. Our bodies are designed to handle short periods of intense stress. In fact, a small amount of stress from time to time is health and can help keep your responses physically and mentally honed.
Where this falls down, however, is if you are living at a high level of stress day in, day out, with no prospect of a break. Stress can strike anyone at any time of their life so it is important to be aware of what causes you stress and whether you are exposed to it in order to allow you to take protective action. Stress on its own very rarely causes high blood pressure directly but can and does play a role in its development and can lead to repeated high blood pressure readings. It also can cause the impact of other risk factors to be exacerbated.
If you know that stress causes your high blood pressure to become worse it is worth learning some relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing and meditation. Practicing these techniques during periods of stress will help you to keep your blood pressure under control and help to reduce your reliance on the pressure pills.
4. Drink Green Tea.
It may seem as though the claims are too good to be true but green tea really is a superfood. It is cheap, readily available from the supermarket (there is no need to go to a specialist store or order from the internet) and drinking it will do your health the world of good.
People from the Far East have known of the health benefits of tea for centuries and drink it prophylactically to ward off a whole range of problems and to promote general health. A meta-analysis of research into the potentially beneficial effects of tea drinking has shown that while drinking tea as a one off will have no real impact on health in general or blood pressure in particular, drinking green tea for 12 weeks or more can lead to a reduction of over 2mmHg blood pressure readings enough to reduce the risk of having a stroke by 8%.
Studies in Japan, where green tea is a very popular drink, have shown that those who consume green tea are less likely to die from any cause than those who do not drink it (up to 55% in some cases depending on the amount consumed). With this in mind you might want to make sure that your grocery cart contains a packet of green tea from now on and that you drink between 4 and 5 cups every day. If you do not like the taste of the tea you can get it in various different flavors including jasmine (which is very popular). Green tea also combines very well with lavender (see below) to give you dual benefits from the one cup!
3. Eat the Stinky Rose. Put more Garlic in your Diet.
Anecdotally we all know that a Mediterranean diet is healthy for us. Mediterranean diets are high in products like olive oil and garlic. As a result many medical studies have tried to establish whether or not garlic can play a role in reducing blood pressure. Meta-analysis of these studies has shown that it does seem to have some effect in reducing blood pressure. The trials showed that garlic supplements, when taken once a day over a period of months, can lower high blood pressure when compared with the results of people taking placebo pills. What the research has not done is compare the effectiveness of garlic compared with traditional medications nor has there been research into whether the supplements are effective long term or what dosage gives the optimum results.
While we would not advise you to bin your prescription and start popping garlic supplements instead it would certainly not harm your health if you were to go to the chemists to buy some garlic supplements and/or use more garlic in your in your diet.
2. Chew on Lavender.
You know lavender – that beautiful purple plant that, if you are lucky enough to live in the right area brings heavenly aromas (and beautiful butterflies) to your garden. If you have lavender you will know exactly how delicate the smell is and how much pleasure it can bring. It turns out, however, that lavender is more than just ornamental.
Originally grown for its scent and use in perfumes Lavender has been used for centuries to help people relax, balance their moods and to cure insomnia. European medicine women and monks from Roman times onwards were aware of the benefits lavender could bring. Lavender plants were strewn amongst the floor rushes in bedrooms to help people sleep and lavender was used as a herb in cooking and as an ingredient in teas and tisanes.
More recently studies have been undertaken to try to place our understanding of the potential benefits of lavender on a scientific footing. One study gave people lavender oil to smell and recorded their responses both unconscious (such as blood pressure, heart rate etc) and their conscious responses such as their mood. The effect of lavender on the brain was also recorded through the use of EEGs. Compared with the placebo oil (sweet almond) the test subjects reported that they felt happier and more relaxed when they sniffed lavender oil. Recordings also showed a drop in blood pressure and heart rate readings.
We are not suggesting that you replace all the fragrances you wear and in your home and car with lavender (you will get sick of the smell) but you might benefit from carrying a bottle of Lavender essential oil with you to dab on a handkerchief or tissue to sniff at times when you are feeling particularly stressed. You might also want to research recipes that use lavender and perhaps drink a cup of lavender tea at bedtime every day (lavender mixes particularly well with green tea). If you enjoy massage you should also consider switching to a lavender based massage oil.
This one should be a a no-brainer; however almost 20% of people between 45-64 smoke and 9% over 65 are still smoking. Any guesses why the percentage is cut in half after age 65? I bet it’s not because those people finally got the courage to quit. Nope. They dead. Drop the cancer sticks. Not only are they proven to give you cancer but smoking raises your blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries and hardens their walls, and makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke.
So there you have it – our top 10 natural ways to reduce your blood pressure without resorting to medication. Of course if your doctor has prescribed tablets you should continue to take them and to attend your regular blood pressure monitoring sessions. They are important for your health!
You can and should, however, try to incorporate as many of these 10 suggestions into your life as possible. They are all relatively simple and easily achievable. We are not asking you to run a marathon a week! You can start all of these tomorrow and they will not break the bank (no expensive equipment needed!). The more of these 10 suggestions you incorporate the better you will feel in general as your baseline health will improve, you should also notice your blood pressure readings coming down. Many of the suggestions will have multiple benefits – improving your diet and exercising more will help to reduce your weight and manage stress better.
Even if you do not have high blood pressure (yet) it is worth incorporating these suggestions and strategies into your daily life, particularly if there is a family history of blood pressure problems. The earlier you start to incorporate them the more you are likely to delay the onset of blood pressure problems.
If you are at all concerned (ie about a change of diet or cutting down on alcohol) for whatever reason you can always discuss this list with your doctor.