According to a Harvard study, High blood pressure plays a contributing role in more than 15% of deaths in the United States alone. High blood pressure boosts the risks of leading killers such as heart attack and stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. According to the American Heart Association, 28 percent of Americans have high blood pressure and don’t even know it.
High blood pressure (hypertension), can be caused by lifestyle factors or by genetics, or a combination of both. It is dangerous if left untreated, as it raises your risk for heart attack and stroke.
For people with high blood pressure, there’s a wide variety of drugs and medical devices that can help bring down the blood pressure to a safer level. However, despite this wide range of available medical interventions (many of which are costly or carry side effects), there’s a much simpler way to bring blood pressure down.
Fortunately, most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally without medication, with home remedies and a new program developed by a research team that focuses on diet, exercise, and sleep as the keys to lowering your blood pressure.
11 Ways To Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Weight is one of the most important determiners of blood pressure, and Once someone’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 25 to 28, taking off a few pounds will make a big difference in treating high blood pressure. A body mass index of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while 30 and higher is obese.
A 2014 study found that people who gained even just 5% of their body weight saw slight boosts in their blood pressure, and people who packed on extra fat around their bellies saw the greatest increases.
Regular physical activity (about 30 minutes most days of the week) can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure, and it’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you have elevated blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension, and if you already have hypertension, a regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure, and you should aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. You can as well, talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Cut Back On Salt
Most Americans eat more salt than is advised by the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and reducing your intake to less than the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon) a day may make a big difference in your blood pressure. Even just reducing your sodium intake by 10 or 20% can help. Learn not to salt your eggs; finish your lunch without a pickle, etc…
Eat A Healthy Diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and saturated fat and cholesterol can significantly lower your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure. It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but you can follow these tips:
- Keep a food diary: Write down what you eat, even for just a week. This can shed some light on your true eating habits, and with that, you can monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
- Be a smart shopper, and form the habit of reading food labels when you shop. Also, stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out.
- Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure, and the best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements.
Indulge In Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate varieties contain flavanols that make blood vessels more elastic and increase the chances of lowering your blood pressure. A study found that 18% of patients who ate it every day saw a blood pressure decrease. Consume half an ounce daily, and make sure it contains at least 70% cocoa.
Limit The Amount Of Alcohol Intake
By drinking alcohol only in moderation (one drink a day for women, or two a day for men), you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. However, that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol, as drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points, and can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Quit Smoking, And Cut Back On Caffeine
Cigarette smoking increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish, but quitting smoking can help your blood pressure return to normal. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. All things being equal, people who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
Furthermore, the role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated, but it is believed that caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it.
Although the long-term effects of caffeine on blood pressure aren’t clear, it is possible that blood pressure may slightly increase, and you should talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
Take A Supplement
In a review of 12 studies, researchers found that coenzyme Q10 reduced blood pressure by up to 17 mmHg over 10 mmHg. This antioxidant, required for energy production in the body, dilates blood vessels. Consult your doctor about taking a 60 to 100 mg supplement for low blood pressure.
Reduce Your Stress
Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure, and occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, and once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
Change your expectations, plan your day and focus on your priorities. Avoid trying to do too much and learn to say no when necessary. There are some things you can’t change or control, but you can change how you react to them.
Focus on issues you can control and make plans to solve them and avoid stress triggers like rush-hour traffic on the way to work, or people who cause you stress if possible.
Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy, and take time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Enjoy activities or hobbies in your schedule, such as taking a walk, cooking or volunteering, and practice gratitude. Studies have found that expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress.
Get Better Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, either because you’re burning the midnight oil or you’re dealing with a sleep disorder, you may be exposing yourself to greater risk for high blood pressure. People who are deprived of good and quality sleep are more likely to overeat, crave junk food, gain weight, and feel stressed.
Multiple studies have shown that every hour less of average sleep duration per night is associated with a 37% increase in the odds of developing hypertension, and people with sleep apnea saw reductions in their blood pressure when they were treated.
Monitor your Numbers at Home
The act of taking your own blood pressure won’t lower it, but getting to know your numbers can help you better understand what could be causing an increase, and what’s healthy and what’s not for you.
It is wise to monitor your blood pressure at home in the mornings and evenings, as this gives you a more complete picture. Additionally, research suggests that keeping track of your own blood pressure may be an incentive for you to make healthy choices like losing weight and eating healthier.