5 Ways You May Be Able To Lower Your Blood Pressure Without Medication
The lifestyle tweaks recommended by experts.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), you’re not alone. Many women begin experiencing high blood pressure during perimenopause and menopause, when women often gain weight due to hormonal shifts. High blood pressure, known as the silent killer, often doesn’t have any symptoms. If left untreated, hypertension can cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and cognitive decline. Many doctors recommend medication to manage hypertension, but there are also small changes you can make that might help you avoid or delay the need for medication.
Here’s a look at what experts recommend.
“Lifestyle factors should be the primary means of reducing risk,” says Jeanne Rosner, M.D., retired pediatric anesthesiologist from Stanford University Medical Center, and current health and wellness educator in Bay Area schools and creator of SOUL Food Salon. “This includes being physically active.” Aim for 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes a day five days a week of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming or dancing. Try including strength training several days a week, as it aids in weight loss. Ask your doctor to help create the best exercise program for you.
“Maintaining a healthy weight” is key as you get older, says Rosner. And being aware of carrying excess weight around your waist, as it can put you at a greater risk for hypertension, heart disease, cancers and other diseases. According to studies, losing weight significantly lowers high blood pressure. Even a small amount can make a difference. Speak to your doctor to determine the appropriate weight for you.
Rosner suggests “a diet rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, that’s low in saturated fats, sodium (salt) and added sugar, such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension),” which is known to reduce blood pressure in as little as two weeks. Stick to fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, lentils and nuts, says Rosner. Limit alcohol (one drink a day), cut back on caffeine, and quit smoking to minimize blood pressure spikes. Elissa Goodman, holistic nutritionist and author of Cancer Hacks, suggests taking supplements such as magnesium, fish oil, coenzyme Q10, cocoa and garlic to reduce inflammation in the body. Consult with your primary care provider before taking any new supplements.
You would be amazed at how much salt and sugar are in processed and prepackaged foods. “It is very difficult to lower dietary sodium without reading labels, unless you prepare all of your own food,” says Naomi Fisher, M.D., director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Most restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, are notorious for using inordinate amounts of salt in their food. Rosner suggests forgoing the salt and experimenting with herbs and spices when cooking at home.
While it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely, there are things you can do to reduce its negative effect on your body. The Cleveland Clinic recommends deep breathing exercises, daily meditation and exercises such as walking, yoga and tai chi to help you handle stress in healthy ways. Also spending time in nature, visiting friends, setting realistic goals and seeking support (counseling, clergy) have huge benefits as well.