When you mention natural blood pressure remedies many people immediately think of herbs, minerals or other supplements. But the truth is that many of these are no more natural than prescription drugs. In fact, they are often powerful substances that can have unpredictable side effects. What’s more, they can end up costing as much as prescription drugs – far more, even, as they are often not covered by insurance or national health systems.
The only true natural methods work from the inside out: like lifestyle changes, for example. Luckily, there are a few simple modifications that can have a tremendous impact on your blood pressure and overall health. Of course, hypertension is by no means always related to lifestyle. There are shining examples of healthy lifestyle with high blood pressure and vice versa.
Also, this is not about preaching or conforming to certain standards. Constant lecturing about lifestyle gets very tiresome. Healthy people come in all shapes, sizes and behaviors. But if you happen to have high blood pressure, lifestyle should be the first place to look for solutions.
Here are 5 factors that really can make a difference:
1. Excess weight and diet
These two topics are inseparable. Notice that I don’t say “obesity” because all it takes to raise blood pressure in some cases is a few pounds. What’s more important is how and where you carry your excess weight. As we move into middle age it’s common, especially for men, to go a bit soft around the waist and hips. At the same time we can also develop those dreaded “moobies”.
These symptoms are often connected with declining testosterone levels. It produces an increase in soft, fatty tissues in certain parts of the body. This includes the heart, which weakens it. So it’s no surprise that this condition and time of life is also associated with an increased risk of hypertension!
In such cases as little as a 10% drop in weight can eliminate high blood pressure. I know a man who was a mere 20 pounds over his ideal weight. On his 6’4″ frame it wasn’t even noticeable and yet losing just this small amount completely solved his hypertension problem.
As for obesity, it does not always cause high blood pressure but it’s fair to say that it is a major risk factor. If you are obese – and hypertensive – losing weight should become a frontline strategy.
When talking about weight, diet is always an issue. The only workable, long-term approach to losing weight is a common-sense, balanced diet along with portion control and exercise. Forget the fad diets! For treating high blood pressure there are specific recommendations in what is known as the DASH diet, which include avoidance of salt and high-sodium foods and an increase in grains, fruits and vegetables.
Inactivity closely follows excess weight because they are so closely connected. They usually go together hand in hand, contributing to each other. It’s fair to say that if you’re overweight there is a very good chance that you’re also physically inactive and this further increases your risk of hypertension.
And if you think you’re out of the woods because you’re not overweight, think again. Inactivity in itself can be a cause of or a contributor to high blood pressure. Over time, it’s likely to increase your weight but, even if not, inactivity slows the metabolism, alters body chemistry and weakens the heart. A weaker heart has to work harder pumping blood and thus increases blood pressure.
Conversely, exercise reverses these conditions and lowers high blood pressure. Like losing weight, increased activity and exercise can often be all it takes to cure hypertension. You’ve no doubt heard it before but you don’t have to climb a mountain. Just walking an hour a day can be all it takes to make the difference.
3. High alcohol consumption
Excessive drinking is almost guaranteed to raise blood pressure. A rare excess is quickly recovered from but chronic abuse almost always results in hypertension. And you don’t have to be an alcoholic to suffer the consequences. There’s usually a fine tipping point between what our bodies can handle and what they can not quickly recover from, especially as we age.
If you are over your safe limit you will often feel it, if not with full hangovers, then in the form of disturbed sleep, tiredness and/or nausea… not to mention high blood pressure! The problem can be reversed by cutting your consumption back as far as needed to regain your equilibrium. Remember that drinking modestly may even be good for us, but there’s only a narrow margin between what is medicine and what is poison.
Obviously, if you are unable to reduce consumption it indicates alcoholism and you should seek help.
For ages, doctors refused to accept that stress can be a cause of hypertension. It should be obvious. Measure your blood pressure when you get home from a tough day at work or after an argument with your spouse. Scary isn’t it? The body recovers quickly from occasional stress, but just as with alcohol, if high levels of stress are chronic in your life it’s bound to result in hypertension.
Fortunately, you may be “lucky” if your high blood pressure is stress-induced. That’s because relaxation – genuine relaxation – can often reverse it. The problem is how often do we really relax? Sitting in front of the TV drinking beer is not that relaxing! Even our sleep – which should be our time for deep recovery and re-energizing – is often fraught with difficulty.
If chronic stress is a problem in your life you urgently need deep relaxation. There are many ways to get it and what works for one may not work for the other. We often think in terms of meditation or yoga. But relaxation can also mean listening to music, reading, taking part in an engrossing hobby, gardening or even doing nothing at all. The important thing is to just do it and break the cycle of stress.
Breathing? Yes, breathing is a lifestyle factor too and is closely connected with both hypertension and stress. What this means is that breathing can be an important tool for relaxation that can also have a profound effect on high blood pressure.
How so? In our stressed-out states we tend to breathe rapidly and shallowly. Tense muscles in the diaphragm constrict major blood vessels, increasing the load on our hearts and increasing blood pressure.
That’s not all. Dr. David Anderson from the National Institutes of Health, believes that “inhibitory breathing” knocks the blood’s chemical balance off kilter, making it more acidic. This makes the kidneys less efficient at pumping out sodium and in turn raises blood pressure.
So it’s no surprise that a natural method called slow breathing has proved to significantly lower blood pressure. The research reveals that breathing at a slow rate and in a specific pattern for just 10 to 15 minutes a day lowers blood pressure. What’s even more surprising is that the effects are cumulative and begin to last around the clock after just a few weeks of slow breathing.
It does this by reversing the two damaging processes described above. Breathing slowly relaxes muscles in the chest, allowing blood vessels to open and decrease blood pressure. At the same time, slow breathing rebalances blood chemistry and lowers blood pressure by reducing the amount of sodium in the body.
These two processes are similar in action to two of the most successful blood pressure medications – beta-blockers and diuretics – but without the side effects. This makes breathing (slow breathing, to be precise) one of the most important lifestyle factors of all, especially when it can do all this in just 15 minutes a day!