If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.
Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
1.Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure.
Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes most days of the week, can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure.
3.Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
Also, consider boosting your potassium levels. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
4.Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
- Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
- Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually.
5.Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you’re healthy. Alcohol raises your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for each 0.35 ounces of alcohol consumed. Yes, that’s only a little more than a third of an ounce. Moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Stopping smoking is good for your health all-around. Smoking causes an immediate but temporary increase in your blood pressure and an increase in your heart rate.
In the long term, the chemicals in tobacco can increase your blood pressure by damaging your blood vessel walls and narrowing your arteries. The hardened arteries cause higher blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco can affect your blood vessels even if you’re around secondhand smoke.
7.Reduce your stress
We live in stressful times. Finding ways to reduce your own stress is important for your health and your blood pressure. Relieving stress starts with recognizing your stress triggers and your relaxation inducers.
Practice deep breathing, take a walk, watch a comedy, listen to relaxing music. These are some of the ways people successfully relieve stress. Also, music has been successfully used as a therapy to reduce blood pressure.
8.Eat some dark chocolate
Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure. But the dark chocolate should be 60 to 70 percent cacao. A Harvard Medical School study found that eating one square of dark chocolate helped lower blood pressure. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in unsweetened chocolate, which help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels.
A 2010 study of 14,310 people found that higher dark chocolate consumption led to a significant decrease in blood pressure.
9.Try these medicinal herbs
Herbal medicines have long been used in many cultures to treat a variety of ailments. Some of these herbs have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Always check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking herbal supplements. They may interfere with your prescription medications.
Here’s a partial list of herbs whose effects in lowering blood pressure have been studied in human beings:
- Black bean (Castanospermum australe)
- Cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla)
- Celery juice (Apium graveolens)
- Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida)
- Coffee weed (Cassia occidentalis)
- Ginger root
- Giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa)
- Indian plantago (blond psyllium)
- Maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster)
- River lily (Crinum glaucum)
- Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
- Sesame oil (Sesamum indicum)
- Tomato extract (Lycopersicon esculentum)
- Tea (Camellia sinensis), especially green tea and oolong tea
- Umbrella tree bark (Musanga cecropioides)
10.Take these blood pressure lowering supplements
These supplements are readily available and have had a track record for lowering blood pressure:
- Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish oil): A meta-analysis of fish oil and blood pressure found a mean blood pressure reduction of 0.99-1.52 mm Hg.
- Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency is related to higher blood pressure. A meta-analysis found a small reduction in blood pressure with magnesium supplementation.
- Coenzyme Q10: This antioxidant lowered blood pressure by up to 10-17 mm Hg in several clinical studies.
- Citrulline: Oral L-citrulline is a precursor of L-arginine in the body. It’s shown to lower blood pressure.
- Garlic extract: One 2012 review noted a study of 89 people with high blood pressure that found a reduction of 6-12 mm Hg, compared with a control group.