With the increase in the complexities of life, high blood pressure or hypertension has become a common problem. High blood pressure should not be ignored as it increases the risk of several health problems like heart attack and stroke, cognitive decline, aneurysms and kidney failure. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Harvard University observed that high blood pressure contributes to nearly 15% of the deaths in the United States. It does not show any symptoms. So it is advisable to get your blood pressure checked regularly to ensure that it is at its normal level.
Before proceeding to discuss the ways to reduce blood pressure, it is important to know the normal blood pressure range. The table given below shows the normal blood pressure range as well as different stages of hypertension.
|Normal blood pressure||120/80 and below|
|Pre-Hypertension blood pressure||120-139/80-89|
|First stage hypertension||140-159/90-99|
|Second stage hypertension||160/100 and above|
We all know there are countless medications available in the market to control blood pressure levels, and they are effective too. But these medications are often accompanied by side effects like dizziness, insomnia and leg cramps. Besides, their effect is temporary in nature. The pleasing part is that blood pressure can be controlled by natural ways without medications. Making healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle normalizes your blood pressure levels but in the long run. Given below are some natural ways that one should adopt in order to maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
A. Dietary Changes:
Balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining your blood pressure at its normal level. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, you need to incorporate the following changes in your diet.
1. Increase the Intake of Potassium Rich Foods:
Potassium is a vital mineral for maintaining blood pressure levels and hence, should form part of any blood pressure lowering program. One of the best ways to lower blood pressure naturally is to increase the intake of potassium rich fruits and vegetables. Ensure to consume at least 2000 to 4000 mg of potassium in a day. Some of the best sources of potassium include potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, kidney beans, cantaloupes, honeydew melon, bananas, orange juice, tomatoes as well as dried fruits like raisins and prunes.
2. Lower your Salt Intake:
Studies have shown certain people have a family history of high blood pressure, the primary reason being sodium sensitivity. But it is difficult to say whether an individual is sodium sensitive or not. So if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is advisable to lower the daily intake of salt to 1500 mg. Decrease the amount of table salt (sodium chloride) in your food. Sodium aids the regulation of electrical processes in the muscles and nerves. However, excess intake of sodium causes the retention of excess fluids, making your blood have more fluid volume. This causes your heart to pump harder to move that excess volume throughout the body. It should also be kept in mind that the processed, packaged foods also contain added sodium benzoate as a preservative. So do not forget to check the label and go for “low sodium/salt” or “unsalted” foods.
3. Consume Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate varieties are rich in flavonols that make blood vessels more elastic. Research has proved that daily consumption of dark chocolate causes a significant decrease in blood pressure levels. For best benefits, it is advisable to consume at least ½ ounce chocolate that contains 70% cocoa daily.
4. Increase the Intake of Fibre:
Fibre helps control blood pressure levels by improving digestion. Leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grain products and legumes like beans and peas are rich in fibre and hence, include in your diet.
5. Take Supplements for Reducing Blood Pressure:
Scientific studies show that certain natural supplements can help lower high blood pressure. These include coenzyme Q10, fish oil, olive oil, omega-3, curcumin (in turmeric), cayenne, ginger, nuts, black cohosh, magnesium, hawthorn and chromium. Apple cider vinegar and garlic are also quite effective in this regard. All you need to do is dilute a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with a cup of water and have it thrice a day. Similarly, you can eat a garlic clove or have garlic tablets in a day.
6. Limit the Intake of Caffeine:
Research conducted by the Duke University Medical Centre indicated that consumption of 500 mg caffeine that is roughly equal to 8-ounce cups of coffee led to an increase in blood pressure by 4 mmhg. Caffeine raises blood pressure by tightening the blood vessels and increasing the effects of stress, thus causing your heart to pump more blood. The result is, as evident, high blood pressure. 8 ounces of drip coffee contain about 100 – 125 mg caffeine while the equal amount of tea and cola contain 50 mg and 40 mg caffeine respectively. Thus, drinking even one or two cups of coffee can raise your blood pressure to the unhealthy stage 1 level. Also, caffeine is a nervous system stimulant. The agitated nerves increase your heart beat leading to an increase in blood pressure. So it is advisable to switch to decaf coffee and restrict the consumption of caffeinated beverages.
7. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs:
Several studies have proved that excess consumption of alcohol leads to a rise in blood pressure. Excessive use of drugs and alcohol damage your liver and kidneys, thereby causing fluid buildup in the body. These extra fluids make your heart beat fast that leads to an increase in blood pressure. Certain over the counter medications like Ibuprofen for headache cause your body to retain sodium. This phenomenon increases the stress on your system, causing an increase in blood pressure.
8. Increase Soy Consumption:
Research has proved that consuming foods high in soy or milk protein such as low fat dairy can lower systolic blood pressure in case of hypertension and pre-hypertension. So if high blood pressure is your concern, replace the refined carbohydrates in your diet with soy or milk protein.
9. Increase the Consumption of Omega-3s:
Omega-3 fatty acids lower the amount of fats called triglycerides that are responsible for increasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Omega-3s also promote overall heart health. Fish like mackerel, salmon and herring are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Ensure to have fish at least twice a week.
10. Stop Smoking:
We all know that smoking is an unhealthy habit, and it increases blood pressure as well. Quitting smoking will not only lower your blood pressure, but also makes your heart healthy and prevent diseases like lung cancer.
Drinking 3 to 4 cups of tea can help control blood pressure. A study conducted at the Tufts University observed that the participants who drank 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily for 6 weeks witnessed a decrease in their systolic blood pressure by 7 points. They also reported low pulse pressure and heart rates.
B. Lifestyle Changes:
12. Practice Deep Breathing:
Deep breathing is an effective technique to lower blood pressure. Deep breathing and meditation techniques like yoga, tai chi and Qigong help decrease the stress hormone that elevate rennin, a kidney enzyme responsible for raising blood pressure. You should try 5 minutes of deep breathing in the morning and night. All you need to do is sit on a comfortable chair with arm rests. Keep your body relaxed and place one hand on the part of your chest or your abdomen. Observe your hand rise and fall with each breath. Inhale deeply such that your belly expands, and exhale and release your tension. If you want, you can listen to music. Slowing down the respiration rate often leads to a decrease in the blood pressure.
13. Listen to Music:
Apart from deep breathing, the right tunes can bring your blood pressure back to normal. Research conducted at the University of Florence in Italy observed that the participants who listened to soothing classical, Indian or Celtic music daily for 30 minutes for a month lowered their blood pressure by 3.2 points. Music is a stress buster. It not only improves your feeling of well-being, but also lowers your blood pressure.
14.Take a Brisk Walk:
A brisk walk for at least 30 minutes a day can decrease your systolic blood pressure by 4 to 9 points. Blood pressure can be controlled to a significant extent by cardiovascular exercises like running, walking, cycling and swimming. Try taking a long walk before bedtime at the end of a stressful day. Having a walk early in the morning can also refresh your body and soul.
15. Enjoy the Sunny Day:
Sunny days not only improve your mood, but also keep your blood pressure at normal levels. Ensure that you get enough exposure to sunlight as it can lower your blood pressure by altering the levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood. On exposure to sunlight, these small amounts of nitric oxide are transported from the skin to the circulation, thus lowering the blood vessel tone. It also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.
16. Check if you Are Snoring:
Research conducted by the University of Alabama has observed that sleep apnea sufferers had high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that elevates blood pressure. Loud incessant snores are one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea. Those having sleep apnea often experience brief but potentially life- threatening interruptions while they are asleep. Apart from loud snores, early morning headaches and excessive daytime tiredness are also symptoms of sleep apnea. Thus, if you are in the habit of snoring, get it checked and treated as sleep apnea is one of the causes of high blood pressure.
17. Avoid Overworking:
According to research conducted by the University of California, working for more than 41 hours per week at the office increases your risk of hypertension by 15%. Working overtime makes it difficult to exercise and have a healthy diet. In the modern hectic lifestyle it is difficult to cut down the work hours, it is advisable to avoid working overtime so that you have time to go to the gym or cook a healthy meal. Managing your work schedule can effectively help in keeping you stress-free and hence, keep your blood pressure under check.
18. Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Being overweight or obese also increases your risk of having high blood pressure. So if you are overweight, you should make an effort to lose weight. Weight loss also increases the effectiveness of your blood pressure medications. You can talk to your doctor about your ideal weight and a safe weight loss plan. It is advisable to measure your body mass index (BMI) and your waistline as both will determine your risk of developing high blood pressure. A healthy waist measurement should be under 40 inches and 35 inches for men and women respectively. The more weight you lose, the lower is your blood pressure.
19.Do not Take Stress:
High stress level is one of the main causes of high blood pressure. There are several activities that can control your stress levels. These include yoga, exercise, listening to music, etc. Having a healthy and balanced diet can also be helpful in this regard.
20. Have a Hot Water Bath:
Having a hot water bath or hot shower for 15 minutes can lower your blood pressure for several hours. You can try taking a hot bath before bedtime to retain the lower blood pressure for several hours or an entire night.
If you are at a pre-hypertension stage, you can lower your blood pressure by following the above-mentioned natural ways even without any medications. If you are troubled by extremely high blood pressure levels, it is advisable to incorporate the above changes in your diet and lifestyle in addition to the regular medications.