High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in which your blood pressure is constantly higher than the recommended level. It is usually referred to as a “silent killer” because it rarely has noticeable symptoms. Left untreated, high blood pressure could lead to damaged organs as well as several serious illnesses, including kidney failure, aneurysm, heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of pressure pushing against your blood vessel walls. The higher the pressure, the harder your heart pumps.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first number in a blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure or the highest pressure in the arteries, while the second number is the diastolic pressure or the minimum pressure in the arteries.
The normal level for blood pressure is 120/80 mmHG. Blood pressure levels between 120/80 mmHG to 139/89 mmHG is considered prehypertension, meaning that there is a high risk of hypertension. Consequently, a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHG or more is considered hypertension.
The main goal of treatment for high blood pressure is to lower its level to less than 140/90, even lower for people with diabetes or kidney disease. Your doctor may prescribe you anti-hypertensive drugs, ask you to make lifestyle changes, or prescribe you a combination of the two.
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. Below are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure.
Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. This healthy diet plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, and cuts back on saturated fat and cholesterol. Following this diet, according to the Mayo Clinic, can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
Reduce your salt intake
Salt causes water retention which increases blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake can lower your blood pressure by2 to 8 mmhg. Limit your sodium intake to 200mg per day. If you are 51 years of age or older, have diabetes or kidney disease, reduce your intake to 1500mg per day.
Blood pressure also increases as your weight increases. Hence, the more weight you lose, the lower should be your blood pressure. Losing even just 10 pounds can greatly help lower your blood pressure.
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes, five to six times a week, can lower the blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg. If you have prehypertension, regular exercise can help you from developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular exercise can help you bring down your blood pressure to manageable levels.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure if you drink more than moderate amounts Moderate alcohol intake for women and men older than age 65 is one drink a day, while it’s two a day for men age 65 and younger.
According to the Mayo Clinic, nicotine can raise the blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after smoking. Thus, smoking throughout the day makes your blood pressure constantly elevated. Smoking also puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Cut down on caffeine
Drinking coffee may temporarily raise your blood pressure, but it is not certain if it lasts. To find out if caffeine raises your blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic advices that you take your blood pressure 30 minutes after drinking coffee or any caffeinated drink you’re regularly taking. Your blood pressure level should not go up by more than five points.
Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure
The following natural remedies, together with lifestyle changes, can be used as preemptive measures against full-blown hypertension. However, if you are using medications, know that natural remedies may affect their functioning.
Studies show that garlic has the ability to lower blood pressure by 10mmHg. The blood pressure lowering component in garlic are its sulfur-containing compounds, particularly allicin, which acts on the body’s nitric oxide system, thus relaxing the arteries and lowering systolic pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential oils found in fish and some plants. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, sardines, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, mustard seeds, cauliflower, spinach, summer and winter squash, strawberries and raspberries.
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that is essential in the control of the body’s blood pressure. The kidneys control the blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluids stored in the body. They do this by maintaining a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull out excess fluids from a wall of cells from the blood stream and store it in the bladder to be disposed later as urine.
Celery contains high levels of 3-N-butylphthalide, a phytochemical that helps control high blood pressure by relaxing the muscles in and around arterial walls. This in turn creates more space that allows the blood to flow easily.
Onions contain an antioxidant flavonol called quercitin, which is shown in research studies to lower blood pressure levels of people with hypertension.
This wonder herb from India is a rich source of potassium and fiber, which are both beneficial for lower high blood pressure levels.
Spinach is rich in flavonoid and carotenoid nutrients, which act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Spinach is also an excellent source of other antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and the minerals magnesium, zinc and selenium. All of these help in combating the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which has been associated with blood vessel related problems such as hypertension.
Beans are rich in dietary fiber, as well as in potassium and magnesium, which are essential in lowering blood pressure levels.
The lowly potato is rich in potassium and magnesium, which are both important in the maintenance of the body’s blood pressure. If the potassium level in the body is low, the body retains sodium. Excess sodium levels cause the body to retain water, which in turn, causes the blood pressure to rise.