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.
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.
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.
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.