Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Do you have a family history of high blood pressure and you’d like to avoid being diagnosed with hypertension? Or perhaps your doctor has told you that you have borderline high blood pressure
,and has urged you to make lifestyle changes. Or, maybe you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure and are on medication, but you’d like to find natural ways to improve your health.
First off, do consult your doctor first and foremost about any lifestyle changes or medications to lower blood pressure. Your doctor knows your medical history and can best advise you.
Discuss the following lifestyle changes with your doctor. These natural ways to lower your blood pressure require no medication, just a bit of willpower and planning.
- Eat better. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to improve your diet. You may not even realize the ways you’re sabotaging your health with your diet. We’re not talking about starving yourself or going on a crash diet. We’re talking about more fruits and vegetables, more healthy fats found in foods such as salmon or avocados (isn’t it great that fat can be healthy?), less fried food and more lean poultry and fish, more beans and nuts and a lot less table salt. Read more about a heart-healthy diet. If you need help with meal planning, Ochsner dietitians are here to help you.
- Exercise more. How much activity are you really getting in any given week? If you’re only taking a walk on the weekends or getting a golf game in here and there, that’s not enough. The American Heart Association recommends at least 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic and/or weight-lifting exercise per week, and/or three sessions of isometric resistance exercises (such as planks, squats or certain yoga poses) per week. If you’re a busy person, that might sound daunting, but what if you took a walk with your family after dinner every night? Or how about signing up for classes at a gym close to your house? Some people find that joining a gym and signing up for classes is more motivating that trying to do it on your own. Ochsner Fitness Center has experts who can help you stick to a plan and make it fun, too.
- Lower your stress levels. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction. Anxiety causes the release of the hormone cortisol, which activates the fight or flight response. Your heart begins to beat faster, you start to breathe quicker and your muscles tense up. Until the brain perceives the stressors are gone, it will continue to release cortisol, keeping the body on high alert, in order to react appropriately to the perceived danger. What can you do to combat the effects of stress? Something as simple as deep breathing for a few minutes, every day, can help. Breathing is an inevitable part of life but are you breathing for stress management? Deep abdominal breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and promotes a state of calmness. Massage can help lower stress levels, too.
- Limit your alcohol intake. For most women, that means one drink a day. For most men, that means one or two drinks a day. Or, take our Alcohol Free for 40 challenge. We have lots of resources that can help you, including mocktail recipes and before and after lab work that can show you the real medical effects of drinking.
- And I can’t stress this one enough: If you smoke, stop. Smoking is addictive and it can be hard to break the habit, but help is available. If fact, Ochsner offers free smoking cessation services to anyone age 18 and up.
Make an appointment with Ochsner cardiologist Royce Yount, MD and learn more about heart health at Ochsner.org/heartmonth