Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

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12. Make sure that you take time to exercise most days.

Many people do not exercise, some because they think that exercise means that they have to join a gym and wake up an hour earlier to get there before work. Some people don’t want to get hot and sweaty, and many just do not realize how essential exercise is to overall health. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing an exercise routine. Some people join a gym and manage to find the time to get a good workout several times a week. Other people join a gym at New Year’s, go there two times, and then forget their membership altogether.

Some people enjoy going for long walks outside. Other people do not like getting hot, and plenty of people live in areas that are too dangerous to walk around without a bodyguard. Some join an adult sports team, and others lack coordination so much that they cannot play T-ball. The important thing is that you find an exercise regimen that works for you. Maybe a video workout, such as a collection of Tae-Bo, Zumba, or P90X, will suit your needs. Perhaps joining a Zumba class with a friend is what you need to have the motivation to dance off the calories.

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11. Check your diet. Salt and sodium raise your blood pressure.

You are what you eat, especially in terms of blood pressure. Some foods, especially those that are highly processed, are known to raise blood pressure. Other foods – in their whole, natural form – can help get it down to a healthy level. Salt (which supplies sodium) is one of the enemies of healthy blood pressure. Many of the foods that we eat contain much more salt than we realize. In fact, it might be so much that many people routinely get more than twice as much sodium as their bodies need. As sodium levels go up, so does blood pressure.

Check the labels of the foods that you regularly eat to see how much sodium they contain. You may be surprised to find out how much sodium is in salad dressing, peanut butter, and cheese, not to mention frozen meals that are marketed as “healthy.” They may be low in calories, but you need to lower your sodium. Some frozen meals have more than 100% of your daily intake of sodium in only one serving. Possibly the worst offender with sodium is fast food. Check the websites for your favorite restaurants and see how much sodium is in their food. The amount of sodium alone may be enough to deter you from ordering any more fast food. Cut back on sugar too!

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10. Regulate how much alcohol you drink.

Alcohol is right up there with salt and sugar in raising blood pressure and keeping it high. Drinking a glass of red wine at the end of the day can be an excellent way to unwind while ingesting healthy polyphenols — high-powered antioxidants. However, anything more than one serving of alcohol per day can raise blood pressure. One bottle of beer can be two full servings of alcohol, so check the label and make sure that you are not consuming too much.

If alcohol is an integral part of your life, reducing it to lower your blood pressure will certainly be a challenge. After all, making lifestyle changes means that, well, your lifestyle is going to change. The result will be worth the effort, though, because lower blood pressure will lead to overall health and well-being.

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9. Reduce your caffeine intake.

Caffeine contributes to high blood pressure on real fronts. One front is the simple fact that caffeine is a drug that activates the nervous system to go into overdrive. Elevated nerve activity leads to high blood pressure. It is one reason why people who do not usually drink coffee often report that they feel their heart racing after drinking a cup. The other front is that too much caffeine will keep you from sleeping, and getting enough sleep is critical in maintaining healthy blood pressure. One of your brain’s jobs is that it regulates your organs’ function, including your heart. You are not consciously aware of how your brain is always telling your heart to beat, but this is still happening.

Sleep resets your brain so that it can do its job better, much like restarting your computer fixes almost any problem you were having with it. When you do not get enough sleep, your brain is less able to regulate your heartbeat, and it may become erratic. Not getting enough sleep is also associated with higher levels of stress, another contributor to hypertension. Think about the nights when you are unable to sleep. You are probably not lying wide awake, thinking about how wonderful life is and all of the nice things that will happen to you over the next few things. No, you are probably anxious and overwrought about everything that has gone wrong and the things that may go wrong in the near future.

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8. Drink green tea instead of coffee or juice.

Green tea does have caffeine – much less than coffee – but its health benefits far outweigh any adverse outcomes associated with the caffeine. Green tea has some of the most potent antioxidants of any food or beverage you could consume, and it can lower your blood pressure. If you are used to drinking a cup of coffee in the afternoon to help you stay awake through the afternoon slog, try swapping it out for a cup of green tea. In addition to the bit of caffeine, the natural chemicals in green tea will boost your focus and give you the jolt of energy that you were looking for.

What’s even more helpful for your blood pressure is to have a handful of berries with green tea. If you are looking for an afternoon snack, try berries with yogurt and a cup of green tea. You could also make a smoothie out of green tea and berries to replace your morning juice fix. Berries are high in polyphenols that help lower blood pressure and promote overall cardiac health.

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7. If you are overweight, try to lose weight.

Often, doctors will dance around the issues associated with being overweight and prescribe medication instead. After all, who wants to tell someone under their care that that person weighs too much? This notion is especially when you can solve the problem by writing a prescription. However, the problems caused by excess body fat are myriad, and one of those problems is high blood pressure. Excess body fat accumulates around the heart can put extra strain on this vital organ and cause it to work harder than necessary. The result is a higher heart rate, higher blood pressure, and a higher risk of heart disease.

Studies have shown that losing weight, especially excess abdominal weight, can dramatically lower blood pressure. If you are overweight, losing five percent of your body weight can move your blood pressure down towards the healthy range. Losing eight kilograms (about 17 pounds) can lower your systolic number by 8.5 and the diastolic by 6.5. In other words, a healthy weight is connected to healthy blood pressure. Nevertheless, make sure that that healthy weight is maintained, you know, healthily, not by starving yourself or exercising to the point of exhaustion. A healthy weight carried through a balanced diet and regular exercise leads to better health outcomes, particularly in terms of your heart.

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6. Swap out milk chocolate for dark chocolate or raw cocoa.

You may have heard reports that chocolate has many health benefits, but processing chocolate reduces those benefits to practically zero. As such, most of the chocolate you eat probably has an adverse health effect, meaning that the bad far outweighs any potential good. Milk chocolate is so heavily processed that there is nothing good left in it, and then so much sugar is added that the result will be elevated blood pressure. Plus, milk chocolate is usually designed to taste so good that you keep eating it without ever feeling truly satisfied.

Dark chocolate is different. While you want to avoid overindulging in massive quantities, dark chocolate has a rich flavor that will leave you feeling more satisfied, causing you to eat less. Plus, it is not heavily processed, so it retains the flavonoids you have probably heard about. Flavonoids are critical plant-based compounds that lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to dilate. Constricted blood vessels are associated with high blood pressure, and the beginnings of heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis, but dilated blood vessels allow blood to flow more freely throughout the body.

Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure over the short term. Again, you don’t want to overindulge, especially if you are trying to lose weight. However, swapping out milk chocolate for dark chocolate is a small change that can make a big difference. If you enjoy hot chocolate, stop buying powdered mixes instead of making your own using raw cocoa that has not been alkalized. Hot chocolate mixes are high in sugar and don’t retain the cocoa bean’s flavonoids, but natural cocoa powder preserves these health benefits.

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5. Stop smoking.

If you are a smoker, the single best thing you can do for your health – ever, period, hands down, end of discussion – is to stop smoking. There is nothing positive that you will ever gain from smoking. The adverse health outcomes include cancer, heart disease, and shortened life expectancy. Plus, secondhand smoke is probably destroying the people that you love most.

Every time you take one puff of a cigarette, you elevate your blood pressure. That elevation is not permanent, but by the time you get through one cigarette – and then another one on your lunch break, and then another one halfway through the afternoon, and then another one on the way home – you have caused immense damage to your heart’s health. Additionally, the chemicals found in cigarettes damage the walls of your arteries. Switching to light cigarettes won’t help, and vaping has been known to kill people even faster than smoking traditional cigarettes. Your best option is to quit. Quitting smoking will be the single best thing you do for your health, including your blood pressure.

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4. Eat fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium.

While some sodium is necessary for proper functioning – you would become dehydrated without it because your body would be unable to retain any water – most of us get far too much. However, there is a little superhero who can help defeat those little sodium minions, and that superhero is potassium. Potassium binds to sodium and removes it from the body. To get the potassium’s hypotensive effects, you need to do more than eat a banana with your breakfast. Bananas are certainly a good potassium source, but adding a banana does not reduce the amount of sodium that you intake.

Furthermore, it also ignores the many other foods that are also rich in potassium. Sweet potatoes, leafy greens, oranges, avocados, melons, apricots, beans, seeds, nuts, and fish are good potassium sources. Instead of just eating a banana, also swap out a processed meal for one that you cook from home from potassium-rich foods. You will immediately begin lowering your sodium levels.

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3. Practice deep breathing and meditation every day.

Meditation is a powerful way of helping to get stress under control and lowering your blood pressure. The practice causes your sympathetic nervous system – which is associated with stress – to switch off and your parasympathetic nervous system – which is associated with relaxation – to switch on. Deep breathing is a simple practice that you can begin doing every time you start feeling stressed with anxious thoughts. Breathe in for a count of 10, hold for a count of 10, breathe out for 10, and again hold for a count of 10. Repeat several times. You will immediately begin to notice that you feel calmer and less anxious as your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and starts to override your anxiety.

Meditation does not necessarily involve sitting in the lotus position while saying “omm” repeatedly. You can meditate by going into a quiet space and closing your eyes for a few minutes. Intentionally dismiss any intrusive thoughts so that your mind becomes completely relaxed. Begin by meditating for five minutes at a time. You can work your way up to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and more.  People who meditate regularly have lower blood pressure because their stress levels are much lower. Stress contributes to high blood pressure, but the parasympathetic nervous system overrides that stress and promotes relaxation.

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2. Reduce the stress in your daily life.

Many of us have daily schedules that are far too hectic to prioritize health and well-being. Eating a salad at lunch is hardly enough to compensate for the constant barrage of noise – telephones ringing, horns honking, children crying – and expectations that we must meet regularly. Always having to answer emails is not conducive to a lifestyle that seeks to lower blood pressure. Neither is a two-hour commute or continuously having to travel. If your job is causing you to lose sleep, in addition to creating mental angst all day long, you may need to make some profound changes to prioritize your cardiac health.

Quitting a job is a drastic measure, but one thing you can do to lower your stress level is turn off your phone at a particular time every day. Let your boss, coworkers, and clients know that you will not be available after hours on specific days because you need to prioritize your wellness. Look at other aspects of your life that may be causing you stress. If you are overcommitted to projects that you will not accomplish, you need to start pulling back. If you have too much debt and are constantly worrying about making payments, you need to pare down your expenses. In other words, your life may need a complete overhaul. 

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1. Make more time for the people who are important to you.

Replace the phone that keeps buzzing with time spent with those that you love. Turn off the phone and have a meal with your friends. For best results, ask that all of them turn off their phones, too. The challenge will be real because many of us are quite literally addicted to our phones.

Instead of trying to impress your boss by coming in on the weekend, take a mini-vacation. Go to a museum or take a long hike through the mountains. Refresh your mind and body while enjoying the company of a friend or other companion who goes with you. Replacing stressful things with meaningful things will require much intention and, at times, going against the flow of a culture that expects you to be always available to answer emails. However, the result will be well worth the effort. In addition to lower blood pressure and improved cardiac health, you will have an enhanced quality of life and better relationships.

Sources:
“Understanding Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure,” by Richard Fogoros. Very Well Health. March 30, 2020.
“15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure,” by Atli Arnarson. Medical News Today. July 26, 2020.

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