5 natural ways to lower high blood pressure
Your blood pressure reading plays a major role in measuring your health. It’s often called the “silent killer” because there are no warning signs or symptoms — aside from a blood pressure reading — to indicate a health issue. High blood pressure keeps your heart working overtime to pump blood through your vital organs so they work properly. You may not notice symptoms of high blood pressure, but it can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
What can you do to lower your blood pressure?
Once you know your numbers, you may want to find ways to lower them. A heart-healthy lifestyle can make a big difference. With consistent effort and changing long-term choices, some people have been able to improve their blood pressure readings without medical intervention. Here are the top five changes you can make to help decrease your blood pressure:
Maintain a normal body weight (a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2). Reducing your weight can decrease your blood pressure by 5 to 20 mmHg for 20 pounds lost.
Adopt the DASH eating plan
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan calls for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, with a reduced content of saturated and total fat. It can decrease your blood pressure by 8 to 14 mmHg.
According to Steven Patton, D.O., family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Preston and one of Norton Healthcare’s community medical directors, there are many dietary changes and foods that can help with high blood pressure.
“There is some supportive research on nutrition’s role in blood pressure,” Dr. Patton said. “Foods with high levels of magnesium and potassium are important.”
Some examples of beneficial foods are:
- Beans like lentils, black beans and chickpeas
- Dark green leafy vegetables
Reduce sodium in your diet
Keeping your sodium intake to no more than 100 milligrams per day (2.4 g sodium or 6 g sodium chloride) can decrease your blood pressure by 2 to 8 mmHg.
Increase your physical activity
Engaging in regular aerobic activity such as brisk walking (at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week) can decrease your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mmHg.
Moderate your alcohol consumption
Men who limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day and women who keep it to one drink per day can decrease their blood pressure by 2 to 4 mmHg.
Need a primary-care provider?
Norton Community Medical Associates is your home for heart health and blood pressure monitoring. Offices throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana are staffed with teams of experienced physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
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While each person is unique, and health factors make blood pressures vary, everyone’s goal should be a blood pressure under 140/90 mmHg. Everyone can take control of their health and possibly improve their blood pressure.
Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
If you’re part of any group that has an increased risk for high blood pressure, you might want to adopt some of the above changes and have your doctor keep an eye on your blood pressure. You may be at higher risk if you:
- Have diabetes
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease
- Eat a diet high in sodium and low in potassium
Medication for high blood pressure
Sometimes medication may be needed to treat high blood pressure.
“Anything over 140/90 is definitely putting undue stress and potentially causing long-term effects on your cardiovascular system,” Dr. Patton said. “If you have tried some of the natural steps above and you still cannot achieve a blood pressure under 140/90, it’s time to have a discussion with your health care provider.”
High blood pressure can do a lot of damage to your body before you are aware there is a health concern. If you fall into any of the above risk categories, if you have concerns about your risk or if you are curious to know what your blood pressure is, call your doctor.
It’s important to remember: If your blood pressure is greater than 180/100 and you are experiencing headaches, vision changes, chest pain or shortness of breath, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.