High blood pressure if one of the most preventable conditions, but it plays a contributing role in more than 15% of deaths in the United States.
28% of Americans have high blood pressure and don’t know it. If you haven’t had yours checked in two years, see your doctor. While medication can lower blood pressure, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness and insomnia.
Fortunately, most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally without medication.
- Get moving. Exercise helps your heart use oxygen more efficiently, so it doesn’t work as hard to pump blood. Get a vigorous cardio workout of at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Try increasing speed or distance to give your heart a better workout.
- Breathe deeply. Slow breathing and meditative practices such as yoga and tai chi decreases stress hormones, which elevate renin, a kidney enzyme that raises blood pressure. Try 5 minutes in the morning and at night. Inhale deeply and expand your belly. Exhale and release all of your tension.
- Pick potatoes. Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program. Aim for potassium levels of 2,000 to 4,000 mg a day. Top sources of potassium-rich produce include sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, potatoes, bananas, kidney beans, cantaloupe, honeydew melon and dried fruits such as prunes and raisins.
- Be salt smart. Certain groups of people – the elderly, African-Americans and those with a family history of high blood pressure – are more likely than others to have blood pressure that’s particularly salt (or sodium) sensitive. But because there’s no way to tell whether any one individual is sodium sensitive, everyone should lower their sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily, about half the average American intake. Cutting sodium means more than going easy on the salt shaker, which contributes just 15% of the sodium in the typical American diet. Watch for sodium in processed foods. That’s where most of the sodium in your diet comes from. Season foods with spices, herbs, lemon and salt-free seasoning blends.
- Limit alcohol. If you consume alcohol at all, consume moderate amounts. For men, this is less than two 12-ounce servings of beer, or two 5-ounce glasses of wine or two 1 1/2-ounce servings of “hard” alcohol a day. Women or lighter-weight people should not have more than a single serving of any of these beverages in a given day.
- Switch to decaf coffee. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and by magnifying the effects of stress. When you’re under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure. If you drink a lot of coffee, switch to decaf to protect your ticker.
- Seek help for snoring. Loud snoring is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Research shows many sleep apnea sufferers also had high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that can boost blood pressure. In fact, it’s estimated that half of all people with sleep apnea have high blood pressure.