High blood pressure or hypertension plagues millions of Americans, putting them at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. However, many of them could lower their blood pressure and bring their numbers into check without seeing a doctor. In most cases, you can reverse this condition by making dietary changes.
One small change alone could lower high blood pressure in some people. Are you ready to take control of your hypertension? Here’s what to do.
The No. 1 Change to Make to Lower Blood Pressure
The one small dietary change you must make to lower your blood pressure is reducing sodium intake. A recent crossover study showed that doing so is comparable to using a first-line antihypertensive medication — this method worked as well as a prescription drug in 75% of study participants.
How low must you go? According to the American Heart Association, you should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. However, that number drops to an ideal of 1,500 milligrams or less for those with hypertension. To put that into perspective, a single can of Campbell’s original chicken soup contains 2,225 milligrams at 890 per serving and 2.5 servings per container.
1. Beyond the Shaker: Reading Labels
Simply skipping the salt shaker isn’t sufficient. Sodium often hides in prepared foods, and there’s no way to un-ring that bell — you can’t remove it like picking an unwanted olive off a slice of pizza. Your only solution is to read labels and eschew ultra-processed convenience meals whenever possible, as they create rather inconvenient and pricey health issues.
It also helps to know how to evaluate such products when you do need them. Those labeled “low sodium” contain less than 140 milligrams per serving, while reduced sodium merely means the item has at least 25% less than the original recipe. Those labeled “lightly salted” or “low in sodium” have at least 50% less — although that might not mean much if the original had well over the FDA-recommended amount.
2. How to Spice up Your Meals Without Salt
Fortunately, you don’t need salt when you know how to cook. If you’ve ever gone to a fine dining establishment, take note — many don’t include shakers on the table as the food comes out seasoned by the chef’s magic touch.
Invest in quality spices. Growing some on a sunny kitchen windowsill is simple, even if you lack a green thumb. You can even sprout the soft, fresh ones you buy at the market by sticking the stems in a glass of water. If you choose the dried version, look for those in airtight containers to preserve freshness, as stale herbs lack the flavorful kick you crave.
What about salt substitutes? Although those containing potassium can taste salty, you should check with your doctor, as too much of this mineral can be harmful, especially if you have kidney concerns.
Other Holistic Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
Reducing salt is the one small change that can lower your blood pressure. However, you can further bring your numbers in check through the following methods. Consider these if you still struggle with hypertension after slashing sodium.
1. Increase Your Omega-3 Intake
Although you need omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the ideal ratio is 4:1. However, many consume closer to 15:1, which can increase systemic inflammation.
Systemic means it affects your whole body — including your arteries and veins. Researchers have found a significant correlation between this swelling and hypertension.
2. Put Down the Sauce
No, not the soy sauce, although that can contain high sodium levels. However, alcohol also causes a temporary blood pressure spike. Despite the hype about how red wine helps your heart, it may be more harmful, as ongoing use can lead to chronic hypertension, increasing your heart attack and stroke risk.
If you must drink, stick to the recommended amounts of no more than one per day for women and two for men. However, don’t start if you don’t currently indulge — you can get the same resveratrol benefits from grape juice or fresh fruit as you can from Merlot.
3. Sip Up
Alcohol is complicated. Most people don’t really drink it for the taste, as you can tell by the disgusted look on a child’s face after sneaking a sip of daddy’s beer. It’s more the psychological association with relaxation.
Fortunately, you have options today. You can turn to mocktails for relaxation’s sake, some including ingredients like Roman chamomile and artemisia — the stuff in wormwood used in absinthe, minus the alcohol. These can help you wind down with a day’s end celebration that doesn’t raise your diastolic and systolic numbers.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking is problematic for your heart in numerous ways. Nicotine raises blood pressure by stimulating epinephrine and norepinephrine, which make your heart beat harder. Additionally, it increases the likelihood of plaques in your arteries, which hardens and narrows them, impeding blood flow to your ticker.
5. Elevate Your Heart Rate
Think of your body like a vehicle. What would happen over time if you let it sit in the driveway unused? It wouldn’t work as well, and your body is no different.
Although exercise increases blood pressure during exertion, it lowers it overall as your body relaxes and returns to baseline. It also strengthens your heart with other muscles, and a stronger ticker doesn’t have to work as hard, lowering your blood pressure.
6. Breathe and Be
Meditation can impact physiological processes and even alter your brain structure over time. It’s much more than simply sitting quietly.
Meditation calms your sympathetic nervous system — that’s your fight-or-flight response that elevates your numbers in preparation for battle. Instead, it primes your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for resting and digesting. It lowers blood pressure by widening your vessels as you relax.
7. Get Your Z's
A good night’s sleep is essential to health, including your heart. Recent research saw that women who get only five to six hours of sleep per night are 7%-10% more likely to develop hypertension than those who get seven or eight. Furthermore, women who typically struggled to fall asleep were 28% more likely to develop high blood pressure.
If you can’t sleep, talk to your doctor. If that’s not possible, practice good sleep hygiene, including the following:
Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. -Make your room conducive to sleep by creating a dim, cool, comfortable environment.
Ban screens from the bedroom, as blue light can keep you awake.
Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime.
One Small Change Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your heart attack and stroke risk. Luckily, you can reduce it without visiting the doctor. Reducing sodium is the No. 1 trick to keep your heart from working overtime. Incorporating the other ideas on this list can further lower your numbers without relying on prescription medications.