Do you have high blood pressure (aka, hypertension)? If the answer is yes, there’s some good news for you and the one-third of adults in the United States who share this cardiovascular condition. There’s also help for the additional one-third who have pre-hypertension, which means their blood pressure is higher than normal but not yet at the hypertensive stage.
The good news is there are numerous techniques to lower blood pressure naturally, without the need for prescription medications. In addition, these natural methods also can benefit your health in other ways, which makes adopting them a win-win situation.
A Few Words About High Blood Pressure
Unlike many health problems, high blood pressure doesn’t typically present with any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked periodically. You can do this easily by visiting your doctor or using a home monitor or a blood pressure monitoring device available at many pharmacies. Be sure a blood pressure check is part of any doctor visit.
Although there are many blood pressure prescriptions on the market, hypertension is largely a disease of lifestyle, which means making modifications to every day habits can significantly reduce or even eliminate high blood pressure. Some of these modifications are discussed below. Always discuss any of these blood pressure remedies with your doctor before trying them, especially if you are taking any type of medication or supplements.
Drop Extra Pounds
Blood pressure tends to rise as we gain weight, so one of the best ways to help lower blood pressure is to drop those excess pounds. Countless studies have revealed that weight loss among people who are overweight or obese is accompanied by a decline in blood pressure. A 2017 study, for example, reported that obese adults who lost weight also enjoyed a significant decline in systolic and diastolic blood pressures along with a drop in resting pulse and fasting blood glucose.
Follow the DASH Diet
There’s a program called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) that has been shown to reduce blood pressure by up to 14 mmHg. The diet is simple: focus on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fish, and significantly reduce saturated fat and cholesterol.
Sack the Salt
The impact of salt (sodium) on blood pressure is not the same for everyone, but generally, it’s best to limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg daily. If you are older than 51, African American, or already have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, then you are more sensitive to salt and should strive for lower intake. Substitute herbs for salt and stay away from processed foods, which are typically loaded with sodium.
Beets (beetroot) are a rich source of natural nitrate (NO3), which is transformed in the body into the active nitrite (NO2), and nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates and relaxes blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure. Enjoy beets or beet juice with the knowledge that a meta-analysis of 16 studies demonstrated how beet juice was associated with a significant drop in systolic blood pressure.
Embrace Herbs and Nutrients
While you are cutting back on salt and adopting the DASH diet, also consider adding some herbs and nutrients to your menu. A variety of these natural additives have demonstrated an ability to lower blood pressure.
Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure. Flaxseed can be added to nearly any recipe, ranging from salads and soups to smoothies, stews, grains, cereals, baked goods, and vegetables.
Garlic has an ability to relax blood vessels and in turn helps lower blood pressure. A recent meta-analysis of 20 trials, for example, reported that garlic reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive adults. Fresh and roasted garlic are an excellent addition to many dishes, but you can take supplements (odor-free) as well.
Ginger, a versatile ingredient that works well in soups, desserts, noodle and vegetable dishes, and stir-fry, as well as tea, can improve blood circulation and benefit blood pressure. A new study in Nutrition reports that daily consumption of ginger can reduce the risk of hypertension and also protect against coronary heart disease.
Hawthorn, a traditional Chinese medicine herb that has been used for cardiovascular issues for millennia. Currently, there is growing scientific evidence that hawthorn can improve mild cases of hypertension and also reduce the risk of other cardiovascular factors. Take hawthorn according to the directions of a knowledgeable health care provider.
If you exercise at least 30 minutes on five or more days per week, you can expect to reduce your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mmHg. It’s important to be consistent, however, because your blood pressure can go up again if you skip your sessions. So tie up your shoelaces and get walking, jogging, dancing, spinning, or using the elliptical.
While consuming one or two drinks per day (for women and men, respectively) can be beneficial for blood pressure, going over that limit can work against you. Not only can drinking more alcohol raises blood pressure, but it also can interfere with any blood pressure drugs you may be taking.
Smokers can expect to experience a healthy drop in blood pressure once they stop smoking. The best time to stop smoking is now.
We all experience stress, but it’s how we deal with it that matters for our health. Identify the stressors in your life—be they issues with relationships, work, finances, school, or other challenges—and adopt ways to reduce or eliminate the stress. Those ways may include meditation, exercise, support groups, changing the situation or your perspective of it, and practicing gratitude.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
It’s a good idea to have a home blood pressure monitor so you can monitor your values and see how any lowering efforts are working. Be sure you know how the device works; you may need to talk with a pharmacist or your health care provider for pointers. Talk to your doctor about how often you should keep tabs on your blood pressure and when office visits may be necessary.
Deborah Mitchell is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com