Doctors don’t always know what causes high blood pressure, but they do know the harmful side effects. Although fluctuations in blood pressure throughout the day are common, when blood pressure is consistently high, the force of the blood against the artery walls can distort and damage them, placing an extra burden on the heart. This in turn can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and can damage the eyes and kidneys.
Unfortunately, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can be a silent condition. In some cases, symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and nose bleeds can signal that something is wrong, but more commonly hypertension is unaccompanied by symptoms and goes unnoticed, making it vital to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Whether you’re at risk for high blood pressure or one of the millions of Americans who already suffer from it, making healthy changes to your lifestyle can help reduce your risk.
A healthy diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, naturally high in fiber, can help decrease the risk of high blood pressure. Photo By katiescrapbooklady/Courtesy Flickr.
1. Avoid sodium. Salt increases the volume of blood and raises the amount of the pressure needed to move blood through the arteries. For real results, you’ll have to do more than remove the salt shaker from the dinner table. Avoid processed and packaged foods, and follow these seven steps to removing excess sodium from your life.
2. Eat raw fruits and vegetables. The fiber in fruits and veggies can help lower high blood pressure naturally. Celery in particular has been shown to dilate blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow freely through the body.
3. Supplement with garlic. Among its many health benefits, recent studies have shown that garlic can also help significantly lower blood pressure. Selenium, a compound in garlic, is believed to prevent blood from clotting, helping it to move unhindered through blood vessels and stabilizing blood pressure.
4. Relax blood vessels with herbs. Various herbs can dilate artery walls and decrease blood pressure. Hawthorn, a European herb rich in flavanoids, can successfully lower blood pressure when used as a long-term treatment. Arjuna bark is used in Ayurvedic medicine to lower cholesterol levels, which naturally has a lowering effect on blood pressure levels as well.
5. Take fish oil supplements. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that prevent clotting and blockage of the arteries. Fish oil also thins blood over time, helping it to flow more smoothly through the arteries.
Peas are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that can help lower high blood pressure. Photo By Biscarotte/Courtesy Flickr.
6. Destress. Stress elevates blood pressure, so learning to control stress can help lower it. When your body encounters a stressful situation, it releases hormones that cause heart rate to quicken and blood vessels to constrict. Engaging in activities that slow the heart and calm the body, such as yoga, deep breathing exercises or drinking herbal tea, will also help to lower blood pressure. Learn to destress.
7. Exercise. Working out three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes helps lower blood pressure over time. But don’t wear yourself—studies have shown that moderate forms of exercise for these given times are more beneficial than high-intensity workouts for hours at a time.
8. Pump up the potassium. This mineral, essential to normal heart function, can be found at alternating levels with sodium in the body. Consume too much sodium, and you're likely to have a potassium deficiency. Consume more potassium, and you'll have less sodium in your body. Studies have shown potassium to be effective at lowering blood pressure, so stock up on potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, spinach, peas and (of course) bananas.