Jennifer Wilber is a teacher and writer. She is also a fitness enthusiast who enjoys yoga, and has an interest in health and wellness.
Hypertension: An American Epidemic
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common health problems Americans face today. In a culture of high-stress schedules, high-sodium fast food, and sedentary lifestyles, it is no surprise that so many Americans suffer from hypertension. According to the CDC, 75 million American adults suffer from hypertension, which is approximately 1/3 of the adult population. The CDC also estimates that only about half (54%) of American diagnosed with hypertension have the condition under control. This is a major health problem in America, as hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke. The CDC estimates that hypertension contributes to the death of 1,100 Americans each day.
Since being diagnosed with hypertension, I have started looking into different ways to bring my blood pressure down naturally, in addition to taking my blood pressure medicine as prescribed and checking my blood pressure regularly. While it is important to continue to take any medication your doctor may prescribe to you to treat your hypertension, there are many different lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure under control in addition to or instead of medication (be sure to discuss these lifestyle changes with your doctor before discontinuing prescription hypertension medication on your own).
Change Your Diet
One of the most important changes you can make when dealing with hypertension is to change your diet. Read nutrition labels and keep track of your daily sodium intake. It is important to keep high-sodium foods to a minimum when you are trying to lower your blood pressure. Reduce the amount of prepackaged foods and snacks you eat, as these generally contain tons of sodium, which raises you blood pressure. Instead, snack on fresh fruits and include vegetables in each meal. Potassium-rich fruit, such as bananas, may also help to lower your blood pressure (but check with your doctor before switching to a high-potassium diet, as potassium may interfere with certain hypertension medications).
Regular exercise is just as important as a healthy diet for lowering your blood pressure, as well as for your overall health. Weight loss of even ten pounds has been shown to reduce blood pressure to safer levels. Cardio exercises are best for reducing your blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy. Exercise may also help reduce stress, which can help to lower your blood pressure reading. Exercises that are particularly helpful in reducing stress include yoga and tai chi.
Smoking has been shown to greatly increase blood pressure. Smokers who have been diagnosed with hypertension should make an effort to quit immediately. The nicotine in cigarettes causes your blood vessels to constrict, which can raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels. When you quit smoking, you will not only be able to lower your blood pressure, thereby reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke, but also improve your overall health and greatly reduce your risk for many other diseases, such as emphysema and lung cancer.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
You should also limit your consumption of alcohol if you have been diagnosed with hypertension. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure significantly in certain people. It is important that women with hypertension have no more than one drink a day, and men with hypertension drink no more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
Limit Caffeine Consumption
It is also important to limit your caffeine consumption if you have hypertension. Caffeine can cause temporary spikes in blood pressure, even in people who do not have hypertension. While caffeine doesn’t generally have a long-term effect on your blood pressure, some people who drink caffeinated beverages regularly may experience a higher average blood pressure. If you have hypertension, it is important to limit caffeine intake before participating in activities that increase blood pressure, such as high-intensity exercise and manual labor.
Reduce Work Stress
Stress may play a major part in developing hypertension, so it is important to take steps in reducing stress in your life if you have high blood pressure. Be careful not to overwork yourself by bringing your work home from the office with you. If you can help it, try to leave work problems at work and use your time at home to relax. After work and during weekends, turn off your phone so you won't be disturbed by work-related calls if at all possible. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is an important part of reducing stress in your daily life.
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Meditation is a great way of reducing stress, which can help keep your blood pressure down to a healthy level. To gain the full benefits of meditation, find a quiet, peaceful place where you won't be disturbed. For a simple beginner’s meditation, simply focus on your breath as you breathe in and out. Let go of your thoughts and worries, and simply focus on being. Try to meditate for 10-15 minutes a day to start and work your way up to longer sessions. If your daily life is usually hectic with little down time, you may find it difficult to quite your mind enough to meditate during your first few attempts, but with practice, you will eventually learn to quiet your mind and find benefit from meditation.
Get Enough Sleep
According to Mayo Clinic, people who don’t get enough sleep are at an increased risk of developing hypertension. Studies have shown that people who sleep five hours or less per night on average may be at higher risk of developing hypertension or worsening already high blood pressure. There's also an increased risk of developing hypertension for people who sleep between five and six hours a night. It is important to get a full night’s sleep to lower the risk of developing hypertension. If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension, improving your sleep habits may reduce your blood pressure, or prevent it from worsening.
Get a Pet
Studies have shown that cats and dogs can help to lower your blood pressure. Petting a cat or dog can reduce stress and anxiety and reduce blood pressure in people who suffer from hypertension. Be sure to play with and pet your cat or dog every day for both your and your pet’s benefit.
Spend More Time in Nature
Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can help to reduce blood pressure in a variety of ways. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to hypertension, though supplements don’t seem to help as much as actual sun exposure. A 2014 study also found that when the skin is exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction causes blood vessels to widen, which leads to a drop in blood pressure. Additionally, a 2010 study found that people who spent time in nature had lower blood pressure, lower pulse rate, and lower levels of stress hormones.
Managing Hypertension Naturally
While it is important for people who have been diagnosed with hypertension to continue to take any prescribed medications, there are many ways to reduce your blood pressure naturally without the use of drugs. Because hypertension usually doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, it is very important to have regular health checks. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly and discuss any treatment plans with your doctor.
- Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure? - Mayo Clinic
Caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure, but its long-term effects on blood pressure are unclear.
- Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure - Health
According to the new guidelines for 2017, more Americans have high blood pressure. Here's how to lower your blood pressure naturally, with easy
- High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber
Jennifer Wilber (author) from Cleveland, Ohio on June 20, 2018:
If music helps you to reduce stress, it may have a positive effect on your blood pressure!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 20, 2018:
You have a lot of excellent suggestions for reducing blood pressure, and jus being more healthy overall. I also love to listen to music, which is probably not listed in the medical websites. Music just seems to make me happy. Great article!
Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on June 19, 2018:
I recently was taken to ER after blacking out where all of my signs were observed. My blood pressure was 143 over I believe 60 something and not to high for a 1945 birthed boy. Everything else was below average, even my continued body's temperature of 97.2. The only thing they found was low water level although that was no reason for blacking out for so long that an ambulance was arriving when I woke up. I have dehydrated a few times but never passed out, only felt a little dizzy, and the on duty Dr. said after reading the info "this is going to be a hard one."
Thanks for the information although most of what you said is a way of life with this old nomad.