High blood pressure is a condition where your heart has to work harder than normal to push blood into the body’s organs, including the brain. This can lead to stroke or heart attack.
Can I lower my blood pressure naturally by changing the way I live? The answer to this question is Yes and No. In this article, we discuss all the possible options.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure affects about 29% of adults in the United States. It’s more common among people who are obese, inactive, diabetic or have kidney disease. High blood pressure also runs in families.
There are two ways you can control your high blood pressure: by lowering it naturally with lifestyle changes and/or medications that doctors prescribe based on your age and other health conditions (e.g., if you have diabetes).
Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower blood pressure naturally.
Cut back on foods that are high in sodium and sugar
Sodium (salt) is a chemical that we eat or drink in food, usually in processed or packaged foods, like pizza and soup. When too much sodium builds up in your bloodstream, it causes you to retain fluids, which can raise blood pressure. This is especially if you don’t get enough potassium in your diet.
Potassium helps the body get rid of excess salt and fluid. There are about 1,500 milligrams of sodium in a teaspoon of table salt.
Avoid ordering restaurant meals with lots of sodium
You can also read food labels to find out how much sodium and sugar are in foods that you buy at the grocery store. Limit the amount you eat each day to no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day and a maximum of 50 grams of added sugar each day.
Make some changes to your diet if needed
Exercising is an effective way to help lower high blood pressure levels. Regular exercise may also strengthen your heart muscles, which helps keep blood vessels open. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, or do a combination of light and moderate activity.
You should get at least 10 minutes of low-intensity activity on most days.
Eat a healthy diet, including fruits and veggies
If your doctor recommends it, follow a low-sodium diet (aiming for 1,500 milligrams or less per day).
Reduce your intake of saturated fat from meats (e.g., beef, pork) by trimming visible fat off the meat before cooking it; choosing lean cuts and lower-fat cuts; broiling instead of frying; eating more skinless chicken; or choosing vegetarian options like beans or tofu as a meat substitute.
If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend that you work with a registered dietitian to develop a weight-friendly meal plan and modify your diet. Eating right and getting regular exercise can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Smoking can lead to high blood pressure by making the blood vessels in your body narrow, which raises blood pressure and makes it harder for your heart to pump blood. Smoking also slows down the flow of oxygen to the heart and lungs and weakens the heart muscle.
If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways that you might be able to quit. There are treatments available that can help you quit smoking (e.g., nicotine replacement therapy or medication).
Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of stroke, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease by almost half.
It’s normal for all adults to feel stressed sometimes. However, stress can have a negative effect on your blood pressure. Stress from work, family issues, or other problems can lead to symptoms like headache, muscle tension or pain in the neck and shoulders, chest pain or trouble breathing, and trouble sleeping.
Your doctor may recommend that you learn how to manage and control stress in your life.
Consider joining a support group with people who face similar challenges.
Get recommended vaccinations
Vaccinations are also important for lowering high blood pressure. For example influenza (flu) is an infection of the nose and throat that spreads easily from person to person through the air. Influenza causes thousands of deaths every year in the United States.
The best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated.
From 2003-2006, influenza vaccinations prevented about 46,000 deaths and an estimated 4.6 million hospitalizations for flu in people 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Depending on your health condition, you may need one or more vaccines against influenza, pneumococcal disease, or hepatitis B vaccine. High blood pressure can put you at risk for these diseases. Talk with a doctor about which vaccines are best for you.
If you have questions about vaccines or your vaccinations please contact your health care provider.
Be active before working out
Getting adequate sleep (7-8 hours) and nutrition is important for optimal performance while exercising. Check with your medical provider before you start any exercise program.
Reduce alcohol intake
Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than two per day for men and one per day for women. If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol completely. Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics that can lead to dehydration and increase your risk of high blood pressure.
Cool it with the salt shaker
All of us need some sodium in our diet, but most Americans consume too much of it daily, usually in the form of added salt (sodium chloride) in restaurant meals, processed foods, and on the table at home.
Too much sodium can cause a rise in blood pressure (sodium is a component of salt). Your doctor may recommend that you limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,350 mg/day. A food label will contain the amount of sodium in a serving, measured in milligrams (mg).
Try to choose foods with less than 40 mg of sodium per serving.
Water is an essential ingredient to life and an important part of staying healthy. Staying hydrated can even help reduce high blood pressure by keeping your kidneys healthy. Most people need at least 8 glasses or 64 ounces (8 cups) of water per day (and more if you are active) to stay hydrated.