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1. Walk and Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure. Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.
In fact, 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Bottom Line: Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.
2. Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods. For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry.
If you already have high blood pressure, it’s worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
Bottom Line: Most guidelines for lowering blood pressure recommend lowering sodium intake. However, that recommendation might make the most sense for people who are salt-sensitive.
3. Eat more Potassium-rich Foods
Potassium is an important mineral. It helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels.
Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges and apricots
- Dairy, such as milk and yogurt
- Tuna and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
Bottom Line: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure.
4. Cut Back on Caffeine
If you’ve ever downed a cup of coffee before you’ve had your blood pressure taken, you’ll know that caffeine causes an instant boost.
Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who don’t consume it regularly. If you suspect you are caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Caffeine can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, although for many people it does not cause a lasting increase.
5. Learn to Manage Stress
Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure. When you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.
Bottom Line: Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress can help.
6. Eat Dark Chocolate or Cocoa
While eating massive amounts of chocolate probably won’t help your heart, small amounts may. That’s because dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate.
Bottom Line: Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain plant compounds that help relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
7. Lose Weight
If you’re overweight, losing weight can make a big difference for your heart health. To put that in perspective, a healthy reading of blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Bottom Line: Losing weight can significantly lower high blood pressure. This effect is even greater when you exercise.
8. Quit Smoking
Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease. Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.
Bottom Line: There’s conflicting research about smoking and high blood pressure, but what is clear is that both increase the risk of heart disease.
9. Cut Added Sugar and Refined Carbs
It’s not just sugar – all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Refined carbs, especially sugar, may raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may help reduce your levels.
10. Eat Berries
Berries are packed with polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart.
Read more: Can blueberries protect heart health?
Bottom Line: Berries are rich in polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.
11. Try Meditation or Deep Breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.
Both meditation and deep breathing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.
12. Eat Calcium-rich Foods
People with low calcium intake often have high blood pressure.
In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines and tofu. Here is a complete list.
Bottom Line: Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. Get calcium through dark leafy greens and tofu, as well as dairy.
13. Take Natural Supplements
Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some of the main supplements that have evidence behind them:
- Aged garlic extract: Aged garlic extract has been used successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure.
- Whey protein: A 2016 study found that whey protein improved blood pressure and blood vessel function in 38 participants.
- Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most.
- Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They’re rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Several natural supplements have been investigated for their ability to lower blood pressure.
Read more: Can exercise improve our mental health?
13. Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax. While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people don’t get enough.
You can incorporate magnesium into your diet with vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat and whole grains.
Bottom Line: Magnesium is an important mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Find it in whole foods, such as legumes and whole grains.