Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

lower blood pressure naturally

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a silent killer. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have it, according to the CDC, and only about one in four actually has the condition under control. It’s known as the “silent killer” because for most people, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure. But while you can’t feel what it’s doing to your body, it is slowly wearing down your organs, eventually leading to a much higher risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

High blood pressure plays a key role in 13.5% of all deaths each year. That’s one of the reasons why your doctor will check your blood pressure at every visit – catching this silent killer before it can damage your body can help you live a longer, healthier life.

The Basics of High Blood Pressure

As your heart beats, it pushes blood through the arteries of your body. That blood creates pressure against the artery walls. Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day and with a variety of activities; for instance, it’s likely to be a bit higher when you are standing than when you are sitting, and as your heart rate goes up with exercise, your blood pressure does too. These are normal fluctuations and aren’t any cause for concern. The problem arises when your blood pressure is at a high level for no apparent reason[1].

Blood pressure is broken down into two numbers. The systolic number, or the upper number, tells you how much pressure the blood is putting on your arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic number, or the lower number, tells you how much pressure is in your arteries between beats. Though both numbers matter, it’s the top one that gets the most attention.

The American Heart Association explains when you should be concerned about those numbers:

·         Normal blood pressure is a reading of less than 120/80 mm Hg.

·         Elevated blood pressure is anything between 120-129/80 mm Hg. This means that your blood pressure is just a little too high and you’re at risk of developing hypertension.

·         Stage 1 hypertension occurs when your blood pressure is 130-139/80-90 mm Hg. This is when the doctor will recommend lifestyle changes to bring it down.

·         Stage 2 hypertension is when your blood pressure consistently hits 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this point, both lifestyle changes and medication are usually necessary.

A hypertensive crisis occurs when your blood pressure rises to more than 180/120 mm Hg and stays there. This is a medical emergency. If you take a blood pressure reading at home and find that your blood pressure is this high, it’s time to call the doctor. If you are experiencing any other problems at all, such as shortness of breath or chest discomfort, get help! If you have a senior life-saving alert system, press the button and tell the monitoring center that you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis and need emergency services right away.

Bringing Blood Pressure Down Naturally

Hypertension is a chronic condition that can be controlled or reversed through good lifestyle changes. If you’re trying to avoid taking medication for high blood pressure, try these ideas to keep the numbers down naturally.

1.       Lose weight. The higher your weight, the greater your risk of high blood pressure. Even losing a few pounds of weight can make a difference in those numbers, so eating a healthy diet and following a good exercise program that helps you take the pounds off gradually can bring your blood pressure under control.

2.       Get a sleep study done. Did you know that disrupted breathing during sleep, also known as sleep apnea, can lead to high blood pressure? The sudden drops in oxygen that your body experiences during sleep apnea make your blood pressure go up and your body work much harder[2]. A sleep study can help determine if you have sleep apnea.

3.       Get regular exercise. Good exercise can work wonders for so much of your body, including your cardiovascular system. Strength training and cardio exercises can both bring blood pressure down to a healthier level; in fact, it’s not unusual to see blood pressure drop by 5-8 points if you get plenty of regular exercise[3].

4.       Reduce your sodium intake. Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Try to keep your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day or less. To help matters even more, make sure to get plenty of potassium, which can lessen the effects of the sodium. Most people need between 3,500 and 5,000 mg of potassium each day[4].

5.       Go with the DASH diet. Did you know there’s actually a diet that is designed to lower blood pressure? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is loaded with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Not only does it help with hypertension, but it could also help with other physical ailments as well.

6.       Don’t smoke. Smoking affects every part of your body in a negative way. Smoking drives up your blood pressure, so if you are a smoker, do what you can to stop. Speak to your doctor about cessation programs if you need help putting down the cigarettes.

7.       Drink only in moderation. Too much alcohol can not only raise your blood pressure, it can also interfere with blood pressure medications and reduce their effectiveness. A good rule of thumb is to drink no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

8.       Focus on good sleep. Getting less than six hours of sleep each night can lead to high blood pressure[5]. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about what treatments might be right for you. Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep include sticking to a sleep schedule, limiting naps during the day, not drinking caffeine or alcohol within a few hours of bedtime, and creating a restful space that invites relaxation.

9.       Lower your stress levels. The more emotional stress you feel, the more your blood pressure could go up. Determine what is causing the stress and do what you can to mitigate it. This might mean avoiding stressful triggers, getting professional counseling, making your environment safer (this might include an emergency button alarm for peace of mind), and making time to relax every day. Supportive friends and family can also help alleviate some stress.

10.   Regularly monitor your blood pressure. Don’t wait until your doctor’s visits to keep tabs on your blood pressure. An in-home blood pressure cuff is inexpensive and easy to use. Talk to your doctor about how to use it and how often you need to check it.

11.   Indulge in chocolate. It might sound strange, but there’s evidence that cocoa – which is rich in flavonoids, or plant compounds that help the blood vessels dilate – can reduce blood pressure levels[6]. Look for dark chocolate and non-alkalized cocoa powder, which has no added sugars. A small piece of chocolate every day can be a nice treat (thus lowering stress levels) while giving you a boost of those good flavonoids.

12.   Eat berries when you want a snack. Berries are delicious but they are also loaded with polyphenols, which are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure[7]. Why not opt for chocolate-covered berries for even better health? It’s a delicious way to stay on top of your blood pressure!

13.   Try meditation. We already talked about stress reduction techniques. But did you know that meditation is in a class of its own? Many styles of meditation have the direct benefit of lowering blood pressure during and after the practice[8]. It works by slowing down the parasympathetic nervous system. Look into deep breathing practices to get started.

14.   Consider natural supplements. Some over-the-counter supplements can work wonders for blood pressure. These might include garlic extract, whey protein, fish oil, hibiscus, or berberine[9]. However, never take any supplements before talking to your doctor to make sure that what you want to take doesn’t interfere with medications you might already be on.

What About Low Blood Pressure?

Though high blood pressure is considered a silent killer, low blood pressure can wreak havoc on your body too. The difference is that low blood pressure isn’t as dangerous as high blood pressure, and when you have low blood pressure, you can often feel symptoms that tell you something is wrong. These might include[10]:

·         Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or very tired

·         Fainting

·         Blurred vision

·         Being unable to concentrate

·         Cold, pale, or clammy skin

·         Rapid and shallow breathing

·         Feeling dehydrated and unusually thirsty

·         Depression

There can be many reasons for low blood pressure. If you notice one or two readings that are a bit low, that’s okay – it happens as blood pressure naturally fluctuates. But if you are showing the above symptoms and your blood pressure is consistently low, talk to your doctor. They can run tests to figure out what is causing the problem and take steps to bring your blood pressure back up to a more comfortable level.

As you go through the lifestyle changes listed above, your blood pressure might fluctuate and might occasionally drop too low. It’s a great idea to have an emergency alert system at your fingertips to serve as your safety net if this occurs. Feeling dizzy or severely fatigued can make it easy to fall, which can lead to even more problems. A medical alert necklace, wristband or watch can help by allowing you to get help fast the moment you feel concerning symptoms. If you start to feel the symptoms of low or low blood pressure, sit down immediately to help you avoid falls and reach out for help right away.