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Monday, 2 July 2018

10 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

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What is high blood pressure?

Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology. The guidelines, published in Hypertension, lower the threshold for what's considered high blood pressure from 140/80 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg. (Anything under 120/80 mmHg is considered normal blood pressure.) That change means about 14% more U.S. adults have high blood pressure than previously thought–and are now likely wondering how to lower their blood pressure.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can be caused by lifestyle factors or by genetics—or, usually, a combination of both. It can be dangerous if left untreated, raising your risk for heart attack and stroke.
For people who aren't able to bring their levels down naturally, blood pressure medication may be necessary. Of the 14% of Americans now considered to have high blood pressure, around one in five will need to be treated with meds, according to the AHA. But if your high blood pressure is a result of unhealthy habits, making some simple changes may help reduce—or even eliminate—your need for prescription drugs. With your doctor’s okay, give these home remedies for high blood pressure a try and see if they work for you.

Maintain a healthy weight

“Weight is one of the most important determiners of blood pressure,” says John Bisognano, MD, director of the Hypertension Clinic at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. “Once someone’s 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.)
The correlation works both ways, too: A small 2014 study found that people who gained even just 5% of their body weight saw slight boosts in their blood pressure. People who packed on extra fat around their bellies saw the greatest increases.

Break a sweat

Most healthy people should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. If you need to lower your blood pressure, though, the American Heart Association has some additional advice: Within that 150 minutes, aim to get 40 minutes of higher-intensity (moderate to vigorous) activity three or four times a week. “It really can be anything that makes you break a sweat, but the important thing is that it’s something you can do most days, without fail,” says, Dr. Bisognano, who is also the president elect of the American Society for Hypertension. “If you want to go to the gym for an hour a day and run or take classes, fantastic. But if a brisk walk around the neighborhood fits your lifestyle better, than that’s great too.”
If you’re starting from scratch and even this level of fitness seems intimidating, take heart. Even just a few minutes a day of easy exercise helped to lower blood pressure in a 2015 study of overweight adults with diabetes.

Cut back on salt

Most Americans—including 86% of those with high blood pressure—eat more salt than is advised by the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’re one of them, 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 (and even better if you can stay below the American Heart Association's 1,500-mg daily limit). Even just reducing your sodium intake by 10 or 20% can help, says Dr. Bisognano. “We ask people to decrease their consumption from sky-high to reasonable levels,” he adds. “Learn not to salt your eggs; finish your lunch without a pickle—you want to make little changes you can tolerate for the long term.”

Eat out less often

Americans eat too much salt in large part because restaurants add so much of it to their cooking, according to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can be confusing even to customers who try to make smart choices, since high-sodium foods don’t always taste salty. In order to see a big impact on American salt consumption, restaurants will have to commit to using less, the CDC’s report stated. Until then, says Dr. Goldberg, try to cook more of your own food so you’re aware of how much salt goes into it. When you do eat out, she suggests, skip salty toppings like cheese, and order dressings and sauces on the side.

Stop smoking

After a cigarette break, blood pressure rises for a short time. Interestingly—and even though it’s bad for your heart in other ways—it doesn’t seem to raise levels very much in the long-term. But besides those temporary spikes, there’s another reason to kick the habit: Smoking dulls taste buds, says Dr. Bisognano, so smokers tend to salt their food more and have a harder time decreasing sodium intake.

Find a way to relax

Stress can cause blood pressure to rise, both short- and long-term. So finding something that helps you relax can be an important part of preventing or reducing hypertension. What that something is, exactly, is up to you—but research suggests that yoga, meditation, spending time with pets, laughing, and even having sex (!) may be good choices. “Just like with exercise, you have to choose something that you enjoy and that you can do consistently as part of your daily lifestyle,” says Dr. Bisognano.


Add strength training to your gym routine

Aerobic exercise will have the biggest effect on your blood pressure, but you’ll get even bigger benefits if you combine your regular sweat sessions with a few weight-lifting or resistance-training workouts a week.
It was once thought that weightlifting could actually raise blood pressure to dangerous levels—and it can, in fact, cause short-term spikes. But now doctors know that having stronger muscles, in the long run, reduces stress and demand on the heart.

Don't overdo your drinking

Moderate alcohol consumption—up to one drink a day for women and two for men—may have beneficial effects on blood pressure. “But any more than that seems to do just the opposite,” says Dr. Goldberg. “We know that heavy drinking raises blood pressure, in addition to increasing your risk for other chronic conditions.”
This shouldn’t just be a concern for older adults or people who already have high blood pressure, either. A 2016 study found that 20-somethings who regularly binge drink were more likely than their moderately drinking peers to have prehypertension—a condition that can progress to full-blown hypertension.

Get better sleep

If you’re not getting enough shuteye—either because you’re burning the midnight oil or you’re dealing with a sleep disorder—you may be at greater risk for high blood pressure. That makes sense, says Dr. Goldberg: People who are sleep deprived are more likely to overeat, crave junk food, gain weight, and feel stressed.
In one 2009 study, every hour less of average sleep duration per night was associated with a 37% increase in the odds of developing hypertension over five years. In another report from 2015, people with sleep apnea—a dangerous condition that can cause hypertension in itself—saw reductions in their blood pressure when they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).

Consider other health issues

“Go over your medical history and any drugs and supplements you’re taking with your doctor,” says Dr. Goldberg. “Sometimes you can be on medicines that raise your blood pressure, or you can have an underlying condition—like a thyroid imbalance or a kidney obstruction—that needs to be treated.”
Drugs that can cause hypertension include acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), antidepressants, corticosteroids, birth control pills and other hormones, migraine medications, nasal decongestants, and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Don’t stop taking a medicine without talking with your doctor first; you may be able to take a replacement or adjust your dosage.

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