Research studies have shown that the following strategies can lead to modest but lasting decreases in blood pressure. High Blood Pressure, Healthy blood pressure reduces your risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
Aerobics or cardiovascular exercises
Walking briskly for 30 minutes to 45 minutes, five or six days a week, can lower your blood pressure up to 10 points. We recommend combining an aerobic activity that you enjoy – such as walking, swimming, running or biking – with some type of resistance exercise, such as lifting light weights.
During aerobic exercise, work hard enough to break into a sweat, but not so hard that you become out of breath or unable to converse. If you are just getting in shape, start with 20 minutes of aerobic activity, three times a week. Gradually build to 60 minutes daily. Talk with your physician for advice specific to your needs.For strength training, use light weights and do multiple repetitions. Your muscles should tire after 10 to 15 reps.
Physical activity yields a two-fer benefit for your blood pressure: Exercise is great for arterial health, and it builds muscle and burns stored fat to keep you at an ideal weight.
If you are overweight, lose weight. Excess weight raises blood pressure. You can lose pounds, if you need to, by cutting calories, increasing physical activity and eating proper foods.
Eat a healthy diet. Food is another powerful medicine. Whether or not you need to lose weight, eating well can improve your blood pressure. That means eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils (such as olive and canola), foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, walnuts and flaxseed, for example) and two or three servings daily of low-fat or nonfat dairy products. It also means avoiding saturated and trans fats.Researchers studying the effects of diet on high blood pressure created the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet. This also is a good diet to help with losing weight.
Limit your salt usage. A sudden jump in blood pressure may be a sign of salt-sensitive hypertension. Overall, about half of Americans with high blood pressure are sodium sensitive; it’s particularly common in African Americans and those older than age 65. Cutting the salt in your diet can result in anything from a small to a dramatic improvement in high blood pressure, depending on your level of salt sensitivity.
Keep sodium intake to between 2,000 to 2,500 mg daily (one teaspoon of salt is about 2,300 mg). That’s far below the 3,300 mg per day that’s typical in the American diet. Count the salt you shake as well as the salt in restaurant meals and processed foods. You’ll want to quiz the server, read package labels and emphasize natural, whole foods.
Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Although moderate alcohol consumption does not reduce the risk of high blood pressure, it is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines “moderate” consumption as an average of no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Drinking more than a moderate amount increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Some other good moves
Some studies suggest that calcium and potassium supplements lower blood pressure. Because the scientific data are mixed, we can’t recommend a dosage or confidently say that calcium and potassium will reduce blood pressure.
For some people, 500 mg of vitamin C and 400 to 800 mg of magnesium oxide are helpful.
Chocolate lovers can celebrate this finding: About an ounce a day of seriously dark chocolate – that’s chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent – tends to improve blood pressure.
Breathing techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can relax the blood vessel walls and reduce blood pressure. A device called Resperate uses timed breathing three times weekly to effectively help many people reduce blood pressure, as well.
After you’ve worked on these lifestyle modifications for three or four weeks, ask your health care provider to recheck your blood pressure. Most people can expect to see clear, sustainable improvement.