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8 pill-free ways to lower your blood pressure

A healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help to lower and control high blood pressure.

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Try losing weight, changing your diet, and exercising.

Sometimes getting your blood pressure under control requires that you take several medications each day, such as a diuretic and a calcium-channel blocker. But some therapies don’t involve medication. “People who have drug intolerances or are unwilling to take medications can try pill-free therapy, and it can also be used to make a medication regimen more effective,” says Dr. Randall Zusman, a cardiologist and Harvard Medical School associate professor.

Pill-free therapy also reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t have it. Consider trying even just one of the following steps.

1 Exercise. Any activity that gets your heart pumping faster and your lungs working harder is one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure. “It improves the blood vessels’ ability to open and close, which improves blood flow,” says Dr. Zusman. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as brisk walking.

2 Lose weight. Being overweight means that your heart has to pump blood to a larger body mass, which makes the heart work harder. Losing weight reduces the workload. “Plus, your heart will be better able to respond to circumstances that do require more work, like exercise,” says Dr. Zusman.

3 Change your diet. You’ll reduce inflammation and damage to the blood vessel walls if you ditch refined grains, sugary foods, and saturated fats, and add more fresh vegetables and fruits, fiber, whole grains, and lean meats to your diet. A healthier diet will also help you lose weight.

4 Watch your salt intake. “Too much salt raises blood pressure in just 5% of the population. But for everyone taking blood pressure medications, salt negates the effect of blood pressure medications, so you’ll need to limit salt intake,” says Dr. Zusman. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a daily maximum of 1,500 milligrams of salt for people ages 51 and older, African American adults of any age, and people who already have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

5 Stop smoking. Smoking damages the inner lining of arteries and makes it harder for these blood vessels to relax. That, in turn, raises blood pressure and counters the effects of certain blood pressure medicines.

6 Control underlying conditions. You can’t ignore other conditions if you have high blood pressure. “For example, high blood sugar causes blood vessels to get narrower and is associated with insulin resistance; both of these are linked to increased blood pressure,” says Dr. Zusman. “High cholesterol doesn’t raise blood pressure, but it does increase vascular damage.” Other conditions associated with high blood pressure include sleep apnea and thyroid disorders.

7 Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol intake raises blood pressure. Men should limit intake to two drinks per day, and women should limit intake to one drink per day.

8 Ease stress. Meditating triggers the relaxation response, a well-studied physiological change that can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can trigger this response with any type of meditation, tai chi, yoga, or even activity such as painting or gardening.

How to check your blood pressure at home

Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help keep it under control. Home blood pressure monitors are available at any drugstore and have become very accurate and inexpensive. Get a monitor with a cuff that goes around your arm, not the wrist or a finger. Automated machines are easy to use: you push a button, the cuff squeezes and then relaxes on your arm, and the machine displays the result. You just sit there. “Take a reading in the morning and again at night, two or three times a week,” says Dr. Randall Zusman, a cardiologist and Harvard Medical School associate professor. He also recommends recording the information and reporting it to your doctor. Follow these steps to get the best results:

  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor, rest your back against the chair, and place your arm on a table or other flat surface.

  • Sit quietly for five minutes before wrapping the cuff snugly around the upper part of your bare arm.

  • Understand what the numbers mean. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or less. High blood pressure is anything 140/90 or more. The top number is your systolic pressure—the blood pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure—the pressure in between heartbeats.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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