17 Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure (And One Cool Medication Trick)
Cutting down salt is just the beginning. Read on for tips on keeping your circulatory system healthy.
Go for a walk
Just a little exercise can make a difference. An Australian study published in the journal Hypertension found that a 30-minute morning walk may be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure for the rest of the day. If you're currently sedentary, try starting with a 10-minute walk (walk five minutes, turn around, and come back) and work your way up to 30. Also, take breaks from sitting throughout the day. (Walking is also helpful for slimming down. Check out these easy ways to lose weight while walking.)
Load up on potassium
Potassium—sometimes called the “un-salt”—can lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, but less than 2 percent of Americans get the recommended 4.7 grams a day. Avocados pack in more potassium than any other vegetable or fruit, including bananas, so add some to your sandwich or salad for a nutritional boost. Other potassium-rich foods include cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and lima beans. These are some of the healthiest vegetables and fruits you can eat.
Schedule your medication
If you’ve started taking blood pressure-lowering medication but still aren’t seeing reduced numbers, make a schedule so you don’t forget to take it. About a quarter of the time, people aren’t seeing results because they forgot to take their medication, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Set a reminder on your phone to go off at the same time every day. Never skip a dose or cut pills in half, advises the American Heart Association.
Go heavy on the ground pepper
Cutting down on salt is often recommended for reducing blood pressure. This could make food taste bland for a few days, but pepper packs in lots of flavor so your taste buds won’t miss the salt. Strong flavors like garlic, basil, and lemon can also help replace salt and train your tongue to stop craving all that sodium, says the American Heart Association.
Invest in a home blood pressure kit
The American Heart Association recommends home blood pressure monitoring for everyone with high blood pressure. This helps doctors determine whether treatments are working. (This is not a substitute for regular visits to your doctor, however.) Ask your health-care provider for a brand recommendation, and bring it to the office so your doctor can observe you using it and be sure you're doing it correctly. Here are other things doctors might not tell you about healthy blood pressure.
Pick a parking spot far from the door
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends small steps, like parking farther from the door when you go to work or go shopping, that can add up to more exercise and lead to lower blood pressure. Wearing a fitness tracker can help you increase the number of steps you take each day—but research shows 10,000 doesn't need to be your target number. The effect on mortality appears to level off after 7,500 steps, and benefits are seen after 4,400. Read about these benefits of walking for 15 minutes.
Consuming 4 tablespoons of flaxseed can lower systolic blood pressure (the top number) in postmenopausal women who have a history of heart disease, a small study in the Journal of Nutrition found. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which probably explains the effect. Try 2 tablespoons in your oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons over soup or salad later in the day for a tasty crunch. Stock up on these 23 foods that naturally lower blood pressure.
Replace coffee with tea
A wide body of research, including a Chinese study of more than 4,500 adults published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, shows that tea contributes to decreased blood pressure. For every cup of tea you drink a day, systolic blood pressure could reduce by two points and diastolic pressure by one point, according to an Australian study. More than four cups, though, and the same benefits won’t show. Check out these other powerful health benefits of tea.
Either on its own or in conjunction with medication, meditation appears to produce small but meaningful reductions in blood pressure, according to a review of studies published in the International Journal of Hypertension. The same review found that transcendental meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction may produce clinically significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Every day, carve out five minutes to sit quietly and repeat a mantra like “This, too, shall pass” or “Breathe.” Here are 10 ways to meditate every day without even trying at all.
Enjoy dark chocolate
Milk chocolate is the most commonly consumed chocolate in America—but it's dark chocolate that can benefit your health. Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure in adults. Limit yourself to a 1-ounce square, and choose 70 percent dark chocolate or higher. Find out more about the health benefits of chocolate.
Hold your partner's hand
One of the easiest ways to improve your health is also one of the most enjoyable: Research shows that kissing, hugging, snuggling, and holding hands can lower blood pressure, help you lose weight, fight off sickness, and more. In fact, one study showed that women who hugged their partners more often had a lower resting blood pressure than the women who rarely engaged in physical touch. Read more about the health benefits of hugging.
Snack on dried apricots
Dried apricots are packed with potassium. In fact, one serving provides more than a third of your daily needs of this heart-healthy mineral, which eases tension in the blood vessel walls to help lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. During the drying process, the concentration of apricots’ potassium, beta-carotene, fiber, and iron—all of which help your circulatory system—increases. Reach for a snack with no sulfur that has no more than 100 calories in eight. Be sure you understand the serious health dangers of even slightly high blood pressure.
Wear earplugs when you sleep
Research shows that being exposed to noise—even while sleeping!—can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. That's why the National Sleep Foundation recommends wearing earplugs at night, especially if you live in a loud environment. Don't miss these doctors' tricks to sleep better.
Adopt a pet
Numerous studies have shown that having a pet improves health—and the American Heart Association emphasizes that lower blood pressure is one of the benefits. In fact, one study found that having a furry friend helps people with hypertension keep blood pressure changes in check just as much as taking the hypertension drug Zestril. If you're looking for more reasons to spend time around animals, check out these benefits of pet ownership.
Assess your sleeping habits
Obstructive sleep apnea is a recognized cause of high blood pressure. In fact, about half of the people who have sleep apnea also have high blood pressure, according to a position paper published in Hypertension. The sleep disorder, in which breathing stops and starts dozens or hundreds of times a night, can be recognized by loud snoring or excessive tiredness during the day. Talk to a doctor if you think you might have these 9 signs of sleep apnea.
Munch on soy nuts
Research on soy's effect on blood pressure is mixed, but the Cleveland Clinic recommends eating soy to increase consumption of plant protein—which has cardiovascular benefits, including lower blood pressure. Soy nuts are naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat—a great way to get a healthy crunchy snack fix. Pick up an unsalted bag at a supermarket or health food store. Chef Mark Bittman suggests more tasty ways to add soy to your diet.
Cut out hidden salt
Too much sodium in the diet leads to high blood pressure, according to numerous health experts, including those at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. We need only 500 mg a day for the body to perform vital functions. But most Americans consume many times that—they average of 3,400 mg every day. It's smart to cut back to protect your health. Sodium hides in unlikely places, like many breakfast cereals, salad dressings, soups, and tortillas. Every day, try to identify one source of sneaky salt and find a low-sodium replacement. Find out more about how salt can make you sick.
Although more research is needed, the Mayo Clinic says there is evidence that some supplements may help lower blood pressure. These include garlic, calcium, fish oil, and CoQ10. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should start taking them. And find out which 16 supplements doctors take every day.
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- Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging: "Blood Pressure Is Associated with Tea Consumption."
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- International Journal of Hypertension: "Current Perspectives on the Use of Meditation to Reduce Blood Pressure"
- American Heart Association: "Are There Health Benefits From Chocolate?"
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- ARYA Atherosclerosis: "Effects of Citrus sinensis juice on blood pressure"
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- Cleveland Clinic: "Soy Foods: Benefits of Soy"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Salt and Sodium."
- Mayo Clinic: "High Blood Pressure."