Natural approaches to getting blood pressure under control are very appealing. Luckily, many are supported by sound scientific evidence.
Regular exercise is a great way for most people to lower their blood pressure. Of course, if you have not been active or if you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, you need to get your physician’s approval for an exercise program.
Pick something you like to do, whether it is swimming, walking, or dancing the tango, and find friends who want to do it with you. Before long, you will probably see the rewards in your blood pressure readings.
It is not entirely clear exactly how exercise lowers blood pressure, but one possibility is that it helps people lose weight. Dropping as little as 5 or 10 pounds can be enough to make a difference (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Sept. 7, 2011).
Aim for losing at least 10 percent of your starting weight.
THE DASH DIET
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. More than 400 articles have been published on its benefits for bringing blood pressure down.
Doctors have known since the turn of the 21st century that combining a DASH diet (lots of vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy products; very little meat or sugar) with moderate sodium restriction can lower blood pressure (Nutrition Reviews, Sept. 2001).
A recent meta-analysis shows that even without sodium restriction, people following a DASH diet have better blood pressure and lower cardiovascular risk (British Journal of Nutrition, online Nov. 28, 2014).
There are books and online information to help you follow a DASH diet, including our own book, “The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.”
Adequate potassium and magnesium are critical to maintaining healthy blood pressure. That might be part of the reason that the vegetable-rich DASH diet works so well — vegetables are great sources of both minerals.
To maximize magnesium, make sure your menu includes foods such as halibut, almonds, cashews, soybeans, spinach, shredded wheat, oatmeal, baked potatoes, peanuts, black-eyed peas, yogurt, brown rice, and lentils.
Potassium-rich foods include apricots, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, buttermilk, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, chicken, fish, lentils, lima beans, nectarines, oatmeal, onions, oranges, peaches, plums, pomegranates, potatoes, prunes, and yogurt.
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