Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association, one out of every three U.S. adults suffers from high blood pressure (hypertension). Also known as the silent killer because it often displays no symptoms, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, and heart and kidney failure. Though there are medications available to treat high blood pressure, these are often not necessary; in fact, simple lifestyle changes are all that are needed to lower blood pressure and keep it in check.
The DASH Diet
If you suffer from high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend that you follow the DASH diet. This eating plan has been proven to lower hypertension in studies sponsored by the National Institute of Health. It also has become the basis for the new U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid and is recommended by the American Heart Association.
For those who suffer from moderately high blood pressure, the DASH diet can lower counts in as little as 14 days; for those with severe hypertension, adding the DASH diet can enhance the response of any medication that is being taken.
The diet follows a basic concept of low sodium/salt, low-fat or no-fat dairy products and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. It also includes daily servings of grains, at least three daily, lean meat or poultry, nuts and legumes and fats. The amount of servings depends on the amount of calories the patient is allowed to eat per day.
The book, “The DASH Diet Action Plan,” by Marla Heller, outlines all you will need for a 28-day eating plan, from recipes to meal plans. Though your doctor may be able to help you with this, having recipes and meal plans may make your life a bit easier.
Get More Exercise
Exercise plays a key role in lowering your blood pressure, especially if you have lived a sedentary life style for any period of time. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising on a regular basis makes your heart stronger. The stronger your heart, the less effort it requires when pumping blood. The less it has to work when it pumps, the less force there is on the arteries, thus resulting in a decreased blood pressure.
The best exercise for lowering blood pressure is aerobic exercise, which will increase your heart rate. Whether walking, swimming, biking or household tasks like mowing your yard or raking your leaves, if raises your heart rate, it’s good for you. Exercise for at least 30 minutes four to five days a week. Once you become comfortable, increase your time by five-minute increments.
If you are exercising and eating healthier, you may lose weight automatically. Realize that as your weight increases, so does your blood pressure, especially if the majority of your weight is around your waist.
Men are at risk for high blood pressure if their waist size is greater than 40 inches. Women are at higher risk if waist size is greater than 35 inches.
Sodium plays a large role in blood pressure levels, so even a slight reduction in dietary sodium can make the difference of whether you develop hypertension.
For younger healthy adults, a sodium intake between 1,500 and 2,400 mg a day is acceptable. Aim for less than 1,500 mg a day if you are an older adult, or suffer from high blood pressure or another medical condition.
Read food labels to know how much sodium you are eating. Stay away from processed foods such as frozen dinners and deli meats; the sodium helps preserve them, giving them a longer shelf life. Do not add extra salt to your food. One teaspoon equals 2,300 mg of sodium.