Changing your diet is an important part of lowering high blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Insitutes of Health (NIH).
The DASH diet includes fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, beans and nuts. Sodium is limited to 2,400 mg per day.
Studies have found that the DASH diet can reduce high blood pressure within two weeks. These are the daily guidelines of the DASH diet:
- 7 to 8 servings of grains
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 4 to 5 servings of fruit
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy
- 2 or less servings of meat, fish, or poultry
- 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils
- 4 to 5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, and dry beans
- Less than 5 servings a week of sweets
1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
1 slice bread
1 cup raw vegetables or fruit
1/2 cup cooked vegetables or fruit
8 oz. of milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 ounces cooked meat
3 ounces tofu
A related diet called the DASH-Sodium reduces sodium to 1,500 mg a day, which is approximately equal to 2/3 teaspoon from all sources (processed and canned foods contain hidden salt).
Patients following the DASH-Sodium diet had a significant reduction in high blood pressure.
More: The Salt Wars: Is Salt Restriction Necessary?
9) Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium
Calcium. Calcium supplementation appears to have a modest but statistically significiant reduction in systolic blood pressure (mean difference of 2.5 mm Hg), however better quality studies are needed.
Potassium. A meta-analysis of five trials indicated that potassium supplementation compared to a control resulted in a large but statistically non-significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (mean difference 11.2 mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (5.0 mm hg). Find out which foods have potassium.
Magnesium. In 12 randomized controlled trials, participants receiving magnesium supplements did not have a significantly reduction in systolic blood pressure, but they did have a statistically signicantly reduction in diastolic blood pressure (mean difference 2.2 mm Hg).
10) Mind-Body Interventions
Mind-body interventions, particularly autogenic training, biofeedback, and yoga, have been found to modestly reduce high blood pressure compared with placebo.
Autogenic Training - a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation. It involves a series of sessions in which people learn how to control breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
People learn six exercises that each involve a certain posture (e.g reclining in a chair), concentration without a goal, imagination, and verbal cues. Each exercise is learned by watching a teacher demonstrate it or by reading a description. It requires regular practice.
Biofeedback - a technique in which people learn how to gain control over internal body processes that normally occur involuntarily, such as blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature.
Biofeedback is primarily used for high blood pressure, migraine, tension headache, chronic pain, and urinary incontinence.
Of the different types of biofeedback, thermal feedback (which measures skin temperature) and electrodermal activity feedback (which uses a probe that responds to sweat) may be more effective than direct blood pressure feedback or electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension. Learn more about biofeedback.
Yoga - Preliminary studies have found that yoga may lower blood pressure. Go to the yoga resources page.
11) Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is an important part of the natural approach to lower high blood pressure. A meta-analysis of 105 trials involving a total of 6805 participants found that aerobic exercise was associated with a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.6 mm Hg, with corresponding reductions in diastolic blood pressure.
People with high blood pressure should speak with their doctor first before embarking on a new exercise program.
12) Herbs and Supplements To AvoidHerbs that have been found or suspected to cause high blood pressure include:
Rosemary essential oil
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
High blood pressure usually doesn't cause any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms associated with high blood pressure can include:
- Dizziness or dizzy spells
Causes of High Blood Pressure
In most cases of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association says there is no one identifiable cause. This kind of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It is usually a combination of factors, such as:
- Weight. The greater your body mass, the more pressure there is on your artery walls. That's because more blood is produced to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues in your body.
- Activity level. Lack of physical activity tends to increase heart rate, which forces your heart to work harder with each contraction.
- Tobacco use. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can damage artery walls.
- Sodium intake. Excessive sodium in the diet can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, especially in people sensitive to sodium.
- Potassium intake. Low potassium can result in elevated sodium in cells, because the two balance one another.
- Stress. Stress can raise blood pressure.
- Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.
- Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.
- Family history. High blood pressure often runs in families.
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