A guide to blood pressure and how to lower it naturally
Have you had your blood pressure checked either by your GP or at the local pharmacy, and then told it's either okay, or you need to lower it?
But what do the numbers mean, and how do you lower it?
In this guide, we'll recommend practical, natural steps that you can take today that have been shown to lower your blood pressure, and some can also improve the quality of your life.
More likely as we age
Along with risk factors caused by diet and lifestyle, ageing plays its part too.
As we age, our blood vessels lose elasticity, which can cause an increase in blood pressure even if we maintain a healthy lifestyle. This loss of elasticity in the blood vessels makes it more difficult for them to expand and contract as needed, leading to increased pressure on the arterial walls.
While the impact of aging on blood pressure varies among individuals, it is generally considered a major risk factor for developing hypertension.
By adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing other risk factors, it is possible to mitigate the effects of aging on blood pressure to some extent.
Your blood pressure results
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is expressed as two numbers, such as 120/80 mmHg. The first (top) number represents systolic pressure, which is the force of blood in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second (bottom) number represents diastolic pressure, which is the force of blood in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
Normal blood pressure:
Systolic pressure: between 90 and 120 mmHg
Diastolic pressure: between 60 and 80 mmHg
High blood pressure:
Systolic pressure: 140 mmHg or higher
Diastolic pressure: 90 mmHg or higher
Borderline high blood pressure:
Systolic pressure: between 120 and 139 mmHg
Diastolic pressure: between 80 and 89 mmHg
12 natural ways to lower your blood pressure
Reduce your salt intake: High salt consumption can contribute to elevated blood pressure. The recommended daily intake of salt for adults in the UK is no more than 6g per day.
Cutting back on processed foods, which are often high in salt, and using herbs and spices to flavour your meals instead can help reduce your salt intake. A study found that reducing salt intake by just 1g per day could lead to a 2.5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying excess weight, especially around the waist, can contribute to higher blood pressure.
Losing even a modest amount of weight can lead to a significant improvement in blood pressure levels. A study found that losing 5% of body weight could result in a reduction of systolic blood pressure by up to 5 mmHg
Time to get in the garden?
Exercise helps lower blood pressure, just walking for 30 minutes daily can lower systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.4 mmHg.
And gardening counts too. Gardening also provides mental health benefits, such as stress reduction and relaxation, which can also contribute to lowering blood pressure.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that regular participation in gardening was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, including lowered blood pressure.
Another study from South Korea showed that middle-aged women who participated in a gardening programme experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure. Moreover, a review of multiple studies on the benefits of gardening concluded that gardening could improve psychological wellbeing, reduce stress, and help lower blood pressure
A banana a day...
Potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can help counteract the effects of salt on blood pressure. Aim for at least 3,500 mg of potassium per day. A meta-analysis showed that increasing potassium intake by 1,000 mg per day could result in a 3.5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure. Bananas, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens are excellent sources of potassium.
The Mediterranean diet
This diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, has been linked to better heart health and lower blood pressure.
A study demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet could lead to a reduction in systolic blood pressure by up to 7.1 mmHg. Incorporating Mediterranean diet principles into your daily meals can contribute to improved blood pressure control.
Time to relax... with your dog
Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure by triggering the release of stress hormones, which can constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Practising relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, can help alleviate stress and lower blood pressure.
An easy and effective relaxation technique to reduce stress and lower blood pressure is call Box Breathing. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps promote relaxation and reduces stress-related blood pressure spikes. Just 5 minutes a day can reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 4.9 mmHg.
And if you have a pet you’re in luck. Being with your pets has been shown to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase feelings of social support, which can have a positive effect on blood pressure.
Studies show pet owners, particularly dog owners, had lower systolic blood pressure than non-pet owners, even when they're under stress.
A good nights sleep
Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation can contribute to high blood pressure. We should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting an additional hour of sleep per night could lead to a 3.1 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Dark chocolate, specifically with 85% or higher cacao content, has been found to have a positive impact on blood pressure. Just eating a small amount of dark chocolate daily could reduce blood pressure by an average of 2.8/1.5 mmHg.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are known to improve blood vessel function and help lower blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Good sources are salmon, mackerel, and sardines, or Omega 3 supplements. The EPA & DHA Omega 3 oils contribute to the normal function of the heart, support normal blood pressure and normal blood triglyceride levels.
Beetroot's a natural source of nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow. Drinking 250 ml of beetroot juice daily could reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 7.7 mmHg within 4 hours of consumption.
Including beetroot juice in your diet can provide a natural way to support healthy blood pressure levels.
Try hand grip exercises
Research has shown that performing hand grip exercises can lead to a reduction in blood pressure. These exercises work by strengthening the muscles in your hands and forearms, which can help improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
A study demonstrated that using a handgrip device for 12 weeks resulted in a 10% reduction in blood pressure
Take your own blood pressure
Regularly monitoring your blood pressure at home can help you track your progress and make timely adjustments to your lifestyle.
Those who self-monitored their blood pressure had a reduction of 3.2/1.9 mmHg compared to those who did not.
Blood pressure monitors are inexpensive and are available online or from your local pharmacist.
This article is for general information only and in not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions.
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