High blood pressure, also known as ‘the silent killer’, is one of the most common chronic medical conditions around. More than 80 million American adults suffer from high blood pressure -that’s a staggering 1 in 3 adults. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean we can ignore it.
If high blood pressure is not controlled or treated it leads to excessive pressure on your artery walls which damages your blood vessels and vital organs. Stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, aneurysm, and brain malfunction are only some of the many possible complications of high blood pressure. So, keeping an eye on the numbers using an at-home blood pressure monitor is essential.
But it’s not all doom-and-gloom. The good news? Lowering your blood pressure naturally is easy and effective. In this post, we break down some top natural hacks for getting your blood pressure under control.
Drop some pounds
We all probably carry a little bit of extra padding. You know, those pesky 5 or 10 pounds that you just can’t shift. And it’s all too easy not to do anything about it. We’re all prone to making endless excuses and telling ourselves, ‘Diet starts Monday!’ But the heavier you are, the higher your blood pressure. It’s as simple as that. So, if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure and get in control- your first and easiest step is to shed those pounds.
Although toned legs and arms are appealing, the most important measurement to keep an eye on is your waistline. Carrying weight around your waist affects your blood pressure more than carrying it anywhere else on your body. As a general guide, men with waist measurements over 40-inches and women with waist measurements over 35-inches are at a greater risk of high blood pressure. So, get out the measuring tape and make sure that your waistline isn’t putting your health at risk.
Need an extra push? Did you know that for roughly every 2 pounds that you lose in fat your blood pressure is reduced 1 mm Hg? Now, that’s an incentive.
Get out and move
Even if you’re slim and your waistline is well below the risk zone, exercise should be a priority. We’re not talking an annual walk on boxing day or a yearly football game at the beginning of the Super Bowl, we’re talking regular, daily exercise. Regular exercise helps to increase both your heart and breathing rates so that over time your heart becomes stronger. A stronger heart can pump blood with less effort which puts less stress on your arteries- the less stress on your arteries, the lower your blood pressure. Studies have even found that adults who participated in aerobic exercise training were able to lower their blood pressure by an average of 3.9% systolic and 4.5% diastolic. That’s an incredible result that rivals the results of some of the best blood pressure medications around.
So how much exercise should you be doing? The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently advised that 40-minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, three to four times a week, is the sweet spot. What exercises are best? Well, that’s up to you. Running, walking, cycling, dancing, rowing- the list goes on. Choose something you enjoy doing. It’s much harder to stick to something if it feels like a chore.
If 40 minutes, three times a week, is an unrealistic goal- don’t worry, there are other ways to get that heart pumping. Take the stairs, walk instead of drive, do some gardening or housework- the key is to get active and to move as much as you can. We can all do that, right?
Get your diet right
Eating is something you should take pleasure in. Indulging in your favorite dish or rustling up delicious comfort food should never be a source of guilt. But getting your diet right is essential for living a healthy life. A diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy can lower your blood pressure by a whopping 11mm Hg and has many other health benefits.
Today, eating well is easy. Supermarkets make shopping for good seasonal organic foods simple and stress-free. More and more restaurants and chains are providing nutrition details and healthy alternatives. Even McDonald’s has got in on the health-food trend, offering apple slices and salads as well as less healthy fries.
But what is the best diet if you already suffer from high blood pressure? If you already suffer from high blood pressure, research has found that restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates can help to bring it back down. Simply swapping out white pasta, bread and rice for it’s brown alternative can make all the difference. So, there’s no excuse. Make the change today and reap the benefits of a healthy diet.
Swap out the salt
Who can resist a perfectly cooked steak sprinkled with sea salt? There’s no denying it, salt is one of the most versatile and delicious of all the seasonings. But we’re eating too much of it. Not only do we liberally season our home-cooked meals with the stuff, but we consume it all the time without realizing. Processed and fast food are amongst the biggest culprits for overdosing our diets with salt - and avoiding it can be difficult.
But salt, otherwise known as sodium, effects your blood pressure. So, to improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure, try cutting down on the sodium. It doesn’t have to be drastic, even a small reduction could lower your blood pressure by about 6-5 mm Hg. As a general rule, you want to be limiting your sodium intake to around 2,300mg per day. That’s still quite a reasonable amount of salt. So make the change today. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor home cooked meals. Read the label when buying processed or packaged foods.
Try our hacks and then use your at-home blood pressure monitor to see if the numbers changed- you’ll be surprised by how much of a difference it makes.
Cut down on the booze
This may be the most unpopular hack on the list. Yes, that bottle of Chardonnay shared between girlfriends is a ritual. Yes, that cold beer is exactly what you need after a long day at the office. But, too much booze has serious negative effects on your health and can lead to high blood pressure. We’re not saying you should cut alcohol out altogether- just a gentle reminder that moderation is the key.
So, what does a moderate amount of alcohol look like? Well, for men around two alcohol drinks per day, for women around one drink per day. One drink can be around 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Of course, you may not drink every day and there may be days where you drink a lot more - perhaps a birthday or Christmas. And that’s fine- just keep an eye on those numbers and remember that if you’re taking medication for your blood pressure- alcohol could be reducing its effectivity.
Kick the smoking habit
Smoking is bad for you. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably very well aware of the myriad health complications that stem from smoking. What you may not know is that smoking increases your blood pressure from the minute you light up. When you smoke your heart rate increases and this drives up your blood pressure for many minutes after you’ve stubbed it out. Scary, right?
Not only does smoking have immediate yet temporary effects on your blood pressure, but the chemicals in tobacco have long-term consequences too. These chemicals damage your blood vessel walls and cause inflammations that narrow your arteries. The narrowed, hardened arteries then become more sensitive to the pressure of your heart as it pumps blood- and just like that, your blood pressure rises.
The good news is that your blood pressure returns to normal almost as soon as you kick the habit. So, do something good for yourself today and quit smoking.
Take time out to chill-out
Work, families, friends, finances- our lives are stressful. Sadly, there’s no magic spell that can instantly wash away our worries- although it would be lovely if there was! Stress is part of our lives and to some extent, there’s not much we can do about it. But stress is a silent killer and is one of the top causes of high blood pressure. So, what can we do?
Although there is no failsafe way to bust stress, there are certainly lots of tips and tricks to at least manage it. We have a whole post on stress-busting- check it out for some great tips. Think yoga, meditation, and taking control of the things that you can. Our best advice is to take time out for yourself every so often, to reflect and relax. Even ten minutes every week could make a difference.
Do you ever find yourself staring down at your phone all day? Do you spend your days at your desk looking down at papers and computer monitors? If so, you’ve probably suffered from Tech Neck! Tech Neck is that annoying soreness you feel in your neck after slouching over tech devices all day long.
If you want to learn more about Tech Neck and what you can do stop it, download this free guide! It includes information on the negative impact of tech devices on our bodies, effective strategies to minimize neck soreness, and exercises to alleviate stress and neck tension.