1) Lose Weight There’s no doubt you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: the most effective ways to reduce your blood pressure is losing weight. Even just 10 pounds can significantly lower blood pressure and carry you out of the danger zone. A recent study showed that planned weight loss can reduce blood pressure such that a number of patients who are already taking antihypertensive (blood pressure-lowering) medications may either trim the dose they take, or stop taking the drug(s) altogether (under a doctor’s care).
2) Exercise Regular exercise has a huge impact on blood pressure. Healthy people maintain better blood sugar control, and have lower body weight and lower blood pressure than inactive people. In fact, being sedentary is an up-and-coming risk factor for obesity and cardiovascular disease. One of the means by which exercise helps reduce hypertension has to do with a force within blood vessels called shear stress. Engaging in exercise puts increased demands on muscles, of course, and that means more blood has to be pumped faster throughout the body to meet rising demands for energy, oxygen, and waste removal.
The physical action of blood moving along the lining of your vessels is what creates shear stress, and studies show that shear stress causes cells to produce life-saving anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. This, in turn, helps blood vessels remain flexible, elastic and relaxed, preventing blood pressure from rising and causing arterial and heart damage.
3) Eat More Plant Foods A diet featuring plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and fruits is extraordinarily healthful for blood pressure. Experts name many components of plant foods that improve blood pressure control. Plants supply dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, and compounds called phytonutrients. Many of these plant-based compounds have potent antioxidant activity that alleviate oxidative stress and dampens inflammation. This is the answer, because inflammation is an underlying, ongoing condition that’s linked to the development of chronic high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, the main causes of heart disease.
Every now and then, vigorous research continues to show that diets highlighting lots of fruits and vegetables are linked with better blood pressure control and good heart health. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health to help people control their high blood pressure. It highly features fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
4) Increase Your Potassium Intake Majority of doctors regularly recommend reducing your intake of common table salt to cut blood pressure. That’s because in some-but not all-individuals, excess dietary sodium is linked with high blood pressure. But new information calls into question the wisdom of recommending salt reduction for everyone. Salt consists of equal parts sodium and chloride, and promising research suggests that low chloride levels may be just as bad for heart health as high sodium levels.
Fifteen years ago, Belgian scientists reported that low serum chloride levels are an independent risk factor for death. That includes death from cardiovascular disease and all other causes. Given that table salt is one of the chief sources of dietary chloride, this seems to oppose advice to lower your intake of salt. The Belgian study track more than 9,000 men and women for a decade. People with the lowest chloride levels were highly probable to die than people with higher levels.
This finding seems to have been largely overlooked. Now, a new study confirms the Belgians’ finding that low chloride levels-not high levels-are linked with increased risk of death among people with hypertension, which suggests that standard advice to limit salt intake may merit reevaluation.
A wiser approach to cutting sodium intake may be to stop blaming your table salt shaker, and to focus, instead, the elimination of all of the processed, pre-prepared and packaged foods that tend to host too much amounts of sodium preservatives, as well as unhealthy amounts of sugar, fat and other unwanted chemicals. Also, enhance your potassium intake from foods like bananas, white beans, dark leafy greens, squash, salmon, yogurt, mushrooms and avocados. Sodium becomes a health problem when it is out of balance with potassium, so boosting your potassium intake may make all the difference.
5) Boost Magnesium Intakes Like sodium, chloride and potassium, magnesium play an important role in the regulation of blood pressure. As Marchione mentioned, a number of experts note that rather than concentrating on reducing salt intake, it may be more helpful to increase your consumption of potassium and magnesium. It’s best to obtain these nutrients from whole foods, though. Dietary patterns like DASH, or the Mediterranean diet, feature plenty of both of these minerals. Dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and whole grains are good sources of magnesium.