I’m a board-certified nephrologist, which means I’m an MD who specializes in kidney disease and hypertension, and today I’m sharing ways to lower blood pressure with easy diet and lifestyle changes. I take care of patients day in and day out with high blood pressure, and one of the most common complaints I hear in my office is, “Doc, I don’t want to take all these medicines. “I want to lower my blood pressure in a more natural, “holistic way.” That may be possible, but there are levels to this and nuances. So, let’s have a real conversation. Let’s talk about how to lower high blood pressure numbers with some easy and practical lifestyle and diet changes.
What Is Hypertension or High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure. In fact, high blood pressure is the second leading cause of patients going on dialysis in the United States. It’s a problem, and it’s a very common problem because, get this; nearly half of the adults in the United States have hypertension, yet only 1 out of every 4 actually has it under control. So, you see we’ve got a big problem.
You may be reading this and thinking high blood pressure, she’s not talking to me. Well, keep listening because I might be. According to the American College of Cardiology, the definition of hypertension is a blood pressure reading of 130 over 80 or higher. If your systolic blood pressure, that top number is 130 or greater consistently, or that bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure number is 80 or greater, then I am talking to you and you have hypertension. But, don’t worry, I am going to show you how to reduce your blood pressure numbers with a few easy tweaks in your daily routine.
7 Dietary Changes to Reduce High Blood Pressure
1. Reduce Salt/Sodium Intake
Making a few simple dietary changes will help you reduce your blood pressure and use food as medicine. First off, you should have a low-salt or low-sodium diet, it is one of the best ways to decrease high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that most adults have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Make sure you’re a label watcher, so you can see which salty foods you should avoid. Also, be sure to watch my video on the worst foods you can eat if you have high blood pressure after you finish reading this article.
2. Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods
Having a diet that is high in potassium can help you reduce your blood pressure, but be careful if you’re someone who has a dietary potassium restriction. For example, if you are a dialysis patient or if you have late-stage chronic kidney disease, then you might actually be on a potassium restriction.
But if you have no potassium restriction in your diet, then having a high amount of potassium can actually help you to decrease your blood pressure naturally. This is how that works. The more potassium you take in, the more sodium or salt you urinate out, and that helps to keep your blood pressure low. So, the recommendation for the average adult is 4.7 grams of potassium per day.
3. Follow A Diet Plan To Reduce High Blood Pressure
The type of diet you have will definitely affect your blood pressure, and there are all kinds of different diet plans out there. And no one cookie-cutter diet works for everyone. Be sure to consult with your physician and a registered dietician to find out which diet plan works best for you. But a couple of the diets that actually do tend to work very well for blood pressure are:
In the DASH diet, you eat mostly fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, also fish, poultry, and whole grains. It is recommended that you limit saturated fats and that you limit sugary beverages or added sugar. And certainly, all of these things can help to promote low or healthy blood pressure numbers.
Another diet that tends to be good for managing high blood pressure and good for your overall cardiovascular health is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, lentils, and nuts, and the fats are mostly from olive oils. Also, fatty fish are really encouraged like salmon, halibut, mackerel, and sardines, but not the canned sardines with salt, please! Also, little or no added sugar is recommended. Again, consult with your physician and a registered dietician to find out which diet is best for you to bring down your blood pressure.
4. Lower Alcohol and Caffeine Use
The CDC recommends that the average adult female, have no more than one drink per day. The average adult male, no more than two drinks per day. If you have excessive alcohol use, this can promote hypertension among other illnesses. Be sure to watch my video on how alcohol affects your body after you finish reading this article.
Another way to control your blood pressure is to limit your caffeine intake. Now, I’m not saying that you have to throw away all of your coffee or that you can’t go to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts anymore. What I am saying is that you should be modest in your caffeine intake, because if you take in too much caffeine, it actually can promote high blood pressure.
According to studies, if you have less than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, then most people won’t have a big issue. Consult with your physician, but if you’re a big coffee drinker, caffeine, or sports energy drinker, then I advise that you take a step back, because having a more moderate or low caffeine intake is a way to decrease your blood pressure.
5. Increase Fiber Intake
A diet that is high in fiber is also good for reducing your blood pressure and it also helps to lower your cholesterol naturally. A high-fiber diet is not only good for your blood pressure but also good for your heart health. You should aim to have between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, and you can get this from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and legumes.
6. Stay Hydrated
Aim for at least eight glasses or 64 ounces of water per day. Drinking enough water can actually help to lower your blood pressure, especially if you’re someone who has a high sodium intake. Water helps to flush out the excess sodium from your body through urination.
Additionally, staying hydrated can help prevent dehydration and hypovolemia (low volume of blood), which can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Be sure to consult with your physician on how much water is the right amount of water for you.
7. Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Your Diet
According to a research review that was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association for the average adult, about three grams of Omega-3 acids are helpful for your cardiovascular health. You can get the Omega-3’s naturally, through fatty fish, through beans, nuts, and avocados. There are also some supplements that may be right for you.
Making simple dietary changes in your daily routine will not only help you manage hypertension and reduce your blood pressure but can also lead to a healthier lifestyle overall. Again, be sure to consult with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet and follow their advice on what is best for you.
10 Ways To Lower Blood Pressure with Lifestyle Changes
Now, let’s talk about some lifestyle changes to manage high blood pressure. When combined with dietary changes, these methods can be even more effective and they can have a significant impact on your overall heart health. Be sure to consult with your physician before making any significant lifestyle changes.
1. Regular Exercise
You want to have some form of regular cardiovascular/ physical activity, be it jogging, walking, yoga, or Tai Chi. According to the American Heart Association, most adults should be getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise or physical activity per week, that’s about 30 minutes, five times a day.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
You also want to maintain a healthy weight and try to avoid being a person who is living with obesity or being overweight. The more excess body fat you have, specifically your visceral fat or abdominal fat. The more of that you have, the more likely you are to have hypertension, among other health problems. So, talk to your physician, about ways to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Start a Gratitude Journal
It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have. It’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong and the more we do that, the more stressed out we become. The more stressed out we become, the higher our blood pressure rises. So, starting a gratitude journal is a way to really ground yourself and calm yourself, and this can help you to lower your blood pressure.
4. Reduce Stress
I know that’s easier said than done, but when you are stressed, that causes your stress hormones to rise like your cortisol and your adrenaline. And when these stress hormones rise, that causes your blood vessels to tighten and it makes your blood pressure go up. So, figuring out ways to reduce your stress can be helpful.
5. Quit Smoking
Another lifestyle modification is to stop smoking cigarettes. I cannot tell you enough how bad smoking is for you. When you smoke cigarettes, this causes damage to the inside of your blood vessels and it increases your risk for atherosclerosis or fatty deposits on these damaged blood vessels. When this happens, you get a narrowing of the blood vessels, which of course can lead to high blood pressure. It also can lead to heart disease, because the heart has to work harder to pump against this high blood pressure. So, please stop smoking cigarettes.
6. Adopt a Pet
There’s actually some science behind it. There was a Harvard Health Publishing article that showed that people who own dogs had lower blood pressure and better cardiovascular health than people who didn’t.
There was also some data to suggest that when people pet dogs, their blood pressures tend to decrease. Now, of course, this is not everybody. If you’re scared to death of dogs, that’s not going to work for you. And if your dog does like my dog, Shadow, and she goes in the trash and gets on your nerves, she can make your blood pressure go up. But overall, consider adopting a pet, that could be a good way to reduce some stress in your life and bring a calming aspect.
7. Volunteer in Your Community
Volunteer work is also a great way to reduce stress and lower your blood pressure. When you’re doing volunteer work in your community, it gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment, which can positively impact your mental health and well-being. Additionally, the act of giving back to others can bring joy and happiness into your life, helping to reduce stress levels.
8. Start A New Hobby
Taking up a new hobby can also be an effective way to lower blood pressure. Hobbies such as painting, playing the guitar or another instrument, or even gardening can provide stress relief and relaxation for the mind and body. By focusing on something you enjoy, you can distract yourself from daily stressors, ultimately helping to reduce your overall blood pressure levels.
9. Get More Sunlight
Make sure you get enough sunlight. Don’t just lock up in the house and get depressed and stressed. Go out and get some sun on your body and that may be a way to help boost your mood, decrease stress, and reduce blood pressure. It is also crucial to apply sunscreen for proper protection.
10. Try Sound Therapy
Sound therapy has been gaining popularity as a method to reduce stress and blood pressure levels. It involves listening to calming sounds such as gentle rain, ocean waves, or soothing music. You can even explore sound baths or sound healing sessions to help you relax and unwind. By allowing yourself to tune out from the world and focus on these peaceful sounds, you can significantly push down your blood pressure levels.
Overall, making lifestyle changes is an essential part of managing hypertension and keeping your blood pressure under control. By incorporating these modifications into your daily routine, you can not only reduce your blood pressure but also improve your heart health.
Knowing When High Blood Pressure Medication Is Necessary
If you are one of the many people who have high blood pressure, it is important that you know when blood pressure medicine is necessary. For example, if your blood pressure is so high that you are actually having some symptoms of high blood pressure, such as headaches, blurry vision, chest pain, or some weakness. In cases like that, then it is likely that you will need some medicines to get you out of that danger zone.
Also, I have patients who walk into my office with extremely elevated blood pressure of 190 over 110, no exaggeration! And they’ll say to me, “I don’t want any medicines.” Well, guess what? If you come in there with this severe hypertension, with this hypertensive emergency, then you are going to get medications.
I’m going to recommend blood pressure medications for you because again, I want to prevent you from having a heart attack, a stroke, or kidney failure. I want you out of the danger zone. So, at that time, medicines are likely going to be necessary, but it’s not one or the other. It’s not medications versus natural remedies. We can do both. We can talk about starting the medicines that are needed right away and also implementing lifestyle changes and diet changes.
As these dietary changes and lifestyle modifications kick in and your blood pressure starts to be lower naturally, well guess what? Then we can wean you off the medications. When you consult with your physician, it’s important that you’re open-minded and that you understand that sometimes medications are necessary. It’s also important that you have a physician that you trust who is open-minded as well and will work with you on natural and holistic remedies when reasonable, as well as being honest with you about when medications are appropriate for your care.
So, now I’ve given you some easy ways to lower blood pressure with simple and practical lifestyle and diet changes. Be sure to take action today. If you have high blood pressure, go ahead and consult with your physician and start implementing some of these healthy lifestyle changes and diet changes.
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