Top 10 Natural Ways To Lower Blood Pressure


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is defined by WHO as having a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg, or more. According to WHO 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 men (1.3 billion people globally) have hypertension, and most of them do not know they have elevated blood pressure.

Having high blood pressure increases the risk of a number of serious medical conditions, including

  • Stroke
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden death
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye disease
  • Diabetes type 2

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is divided into primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. About 5% of all cases of high blood pressure are secondary hypertension and are due to an underlying medical condition. The most common causes are

  • Disease in the adrenal glands with overproduction of the hormone aldosterone, which regulates salt and fluid balance.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Narrowing of the arteries to the kidneys (renal artery stenosis)
  • Sleep apnea
  • High metabolism

However, in 95% of cases of high blood pressure there is no single cause. Here, heredity and lifestyle play an important role, primarily obesity, a high salt intake and physical inactivity. Also some medications can increase blood pressure, including anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and paracetamol.

Treatment of high blood pressure

For mild hypertension with a low risk of cardiovascular disease, lifestyle changes alone can be implemented for the first 3-6 months, followed by a reevaluation. However, if the systolic blood pressure exceeds 160 mmHg, immediate initiation of blood pressure medication is recommended to effectively control blood pressure. Nonetheless, lifestyle measures can be implemented concurrently and often reduce the need for medication.

Which lifestyle measures have the best evidence and the greatest blood pressure-lowering effect? Here is an overview of the most effective and best-documented lifestyle measures to reduce high blood pressure, sorted from least to greatest effect.

10. Flaxseed

Several studies have shown that flaxseed may lower blood pressure. One possible mechanism for this is that flaxseed inhibits an enzyme that breaks down blood pressure-regulating signal molecules. ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed appears to be the bioactive component that inhibits this signaling molecule.

Blood pressure reduction with flaxseed: About 3 mmHg

9. Reduce alcohol intake

A high alcohol intake can increase blood pressure. There are several reasons for this. Among other things, a high alcohol intake causes the arteries to become thicker and stiffer. In addition, the blood vessels contract when alcohol is in the blood (vasoconstriction). Reduce blood pressure by reducing or avoiding alcohol.

Blood pressure reduction with reduced / no alcohol intake: About 4 mmHg

8. Strength training

It is well documented that physical activity can reduce blood pressure, including strength training. The reason why strength training reduces blood pressure seems to be, among other things, that such training increases the production of nitric oxide (more about this substance under point 6), a substance that plays an important role in controlling the tone of the blood vessels, and through this regulates and reduces blood pressure.

The recommended amount of strength training to reduce blood pressure is 90-150 min/week, 6 exercises, 3 sets, 10 reps/set:

Blood pressure reduction with strength training: About 4 mmHg

7. Potassium-rich diet

Blood pressure may be reduced with a high potassium intake of 3,500 – 5,000 mg per day. Possible reasons for this are that potassium helps the blood vessels to relax (vasodilation). In addition, a potassium-rich diet will increase the excretion of sodium and reduce the excretion of aldosterone, substances that can increase blood pressure. Here are some foods that contain more potassium than bananas (330mg/100g):

  • Brussels sprouts (boiled) – 425 mg
  • White beans in tomato sauce – 563 mg
  • Avocado – 583 mg
  • Almonds – 745 mg
  • Pumpkin seeds – 790 mg
  • Raisins – 907 mg

In general, there is a lot of potassium in dried fruit, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as some dairy products and plant-based meat substitutes. Not everyone can tolerate a high potassium intake, for example people with chronic kidney disease.

Blood pressure reduction with increased potassium: About 4 mmHg

6. Beetroot

Beets are rich in nitrate, a compound that the body uses to make nitric oxide. When we eat beetroot, the concentration of nitric oxide in the blood increases, which causes the muscles in the arteries to relax. This reduces the blood pressure. In addition, beetroot contains other bioactive substances such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which probably also have a blood pressure-lowering effect. Studies on consumption of 70 – 250 ml of beetroot juice daily have shown a significant and rapid reduction in blood pressure.

By juicing beetroot, it is easier to take in larger amounts of this food.

Blood pressure reduction with 70-250 ml beetroot: About 5 mmHg

5. Salt reduction

The more salt we eat, the higher the blood pressure. Reducing salt intake can therefore be a simple and effective measure to reduce blood pressure. Salt reduction (to less than 3.8 grams per day) seems to have the greatest blood pressure-lowering effect for the following people:

  • Africans and African Americans
  • Middle-aged and elderly people
  • People with severe high blood pressure
  • People with diabetes or kidney disease

Blood pressure reduction with reduced salt intake: About 5.5 mmHg

4. Breathing exercises

We all know that breathing is vital. However, it is not only important IF you breathe, but also HOW you breathe. How quickly, deeply and with which muscles we breathe can affect both physical and mental health. In case of stress, slow and deep breathing can help calm the nervous system and lower both blood pressure and heart rate.

Instructions:

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. When you inhale, the hand on your belly should rise more than the one on your chest. This ensures that the diaphragm draws air into the bottom of the lungs.
  • Then exhale through your mouth. Then breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and hold your breath for seven seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth to the count of 8. Contract gently your abdominal muscles when all the air has been exhaled to empty your lungs as much as possible. It is important to remember that we make both the inhalation and exhalation deeper
  • Repeat the cycle Make a total of five cycles.

Tips:

  • Exhalation should generally be twice as long as inhalation. Aim to spend a total of 10 seconds inhaling and exhaling (one cycle). This speed has been shown to have the greatest effect on reducing blood pressure.
  • The use of the hands can be omitted when you feel that you have mastered the breathing technique well.

Studies have shown that breathing exercises can effectively lower blood pressure and heart rate. These studies have lasted from a few weeks to up to six months.

Blood pressure reduction with breathing exercises: About 6 mmHg

3. Aerobic exercise

For people with hypertension, aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, running, biking, swimming and using an elliptical machine, can significantly reduce blood pressure. The recommended amount of exercise is a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity (e.g. brisk walking), or a minimum of 75 minutes of high intensity (can only say a few words while exercising).

The reason why exercise reduces blood pressure is uncertain, but it is assumed that the effect may come from exercise’s effect on both the autonomic nervous system and insulin sensitivity. Altered salt sensitivity and changes in reduced stiffness of blood vessels are also possible mechanisms.

Blood pressure reduction with aerobic exercise: About 7 mmHg

2. Weight reduction (10 kg)

About 25% of all cases of high blood pressure are due to overweight and obesity. The reasons why overweight and obesity increase blood pressure include

  • Increased vascular resistance (systemic vascular resistance),
  • Increased activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system
  • Sleep apnea
  • Increased insulin secretion (hyperinsulinemia)
  • Increased absorption of sodium in the kidneys.

For each kg of weight reduction, the blood pressure falls by approximately 0.5 – 2 mmHg.

If you want to know how to lose weight effectively, I have provided links to two articles below

ARTICLE: How To Lose Weight While Eating As Much Food As You Want

ARTICLE: How To Lose Weight After 50

Blood pressure reduction with 10kg weight reduction: About 10 mmHg

1. DASH diet

The “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension” diet is designed to reduce blood pressure. The diet is rich in fruit and vegetables, lean protein sources and includes a low intake of fats and sweets. It consists of

  • 7-8 portions of whole grains
  • 3-5 servings of fruit
  • 4-5 servings of vegetables
  • 2-3 portions of low-fat dairy products
  • 2 or fewer servings of lean fish, meat or poultry
  • 4-5 portions of nuts, seeds and legumes (weekly)
  • Limited amount of fat and sweets

Studies have shown that a low-salt DASH diet (less than 2.5 grams of salt per day) can significantly reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure and a high salt intake.

Blood pressure reduction with DASH diet: About 11 mmHg

Comprehensive lifestyle treatment

We have now looked at several individual factors that can reduce blood pressure. What if we add several items from the list above? Will the blood pressure be reduced even more, as much as the sum of each individual measure? The blood pressure reduction is likely not as great as the total of the individual measures listed above.

Several studies have been carried out on a broad and comprehensive lifestyle treatment of high blood pressure. One of them is the TRIUMPH study that was published in 2021. In this study, people with elevated blood pressure were doing dietary changes, weight reduction if overweight, and physical activity.

After 4 months, the blood pressure had been reduced by approximately 12.5 mmHg, i.e. somewhat greater effect than individual measures, but not as much as the sum of the individual measures.

Conclusion

There are many lifestyle measures that can lower blood pressure, including weight reduction, dietary factors such as the DASH diet, salt reduction, beetroot and flaxseed, in addition to physical activity, alcohol reduction/abstinence and breathing exercises.

With a comprehensive lifestyle treatment, blood pressure can be lowered further, but probably not as much as the sum of each individual measure.

Sources

Allan Fjelmberg, MD, MPH, DipIBLM

As a Norwegian based medical doctor certified in Lifestyle Medicine he currently serves as the medical director of Skogli Health and Rehabilitation Center, Lillehammer. Through consultations, presentations, articles and other public health-related activities, he motivates people to utilize the potential that a healthy lifestyle has both in prevention and treatment of disease.

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