Lifestyle Habits that Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

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Filed Under: Blood Pressure, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Lifestyle Habits that Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Daily advice to help you lower your blood pressure without medication

Eating foods that lower blood pressure and taking targeted nutrients are two effective ways to lower your blood pressure naturally. However, you can further reduce your numbers by making some simple changes to your lifestyle:

Lose Weight

Obesity places an extra burden on the heart. For every extra pound of fat you carry, your heart has to pump blood through several additional miles of blood vessels. Returning to a weight that is right for you can naturally lower blood pressure as much as 15 to 25 points.

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Stop Smoking

Smoking depletes practically every known protective vitamin and mineral your body needs, and it wreaks havoc on your cardiovascular system. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. It increases the fats that circulate in your blood (like cholesterol). Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, in turn, forcing the heart to work harder.

Quitting smoking can naturally lower blood pressure levels 5 to 10 points. Niacin (vitamin B3) can help lessen some of the adverse effects of nicotine by opening blood vessels. I recommend 50 mg of niacin daily.

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Give Up Coffee

Psychologists from Duke University and the University of Vermont found that the first cup of coffee in the morning increased both heart rate and blood pressure, and each additional cup continued to increase heart rate and blood pressure. (A second cup increased heart rate five beats and pressure 5 mmHg.) Research indicates that dropping both cigarettes and coffee, alone, can naturally lower blood pressure levels as much as 15 to 20 points.

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Exercise

A combination of regular exercise and proper diet will strengthen the heart, open up collateral blood vessels, reduce stress, normalize weight, and help lower blood pressure. Regularity of exercise is the key. In fact, occasional "he-man" strenuous workouts are far less effective than simply walking at least 30 minutes each day.

Learn more about the three exercises everyone should do and how you can incorporate exercise into a busy routine.

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Reduce Stress

It should come as no surprise that reducing stress can play a major role in lowering high blood pressure.

If stress is a problem for you, keep in mind that controlling it is all about how you react to a situation. Vacations, meditation, exercise, and hobbies can help you deal with irritating situations. Also, pets have been shown to help reduce stress and blood pressure. But if none of these helps, you may need to more significantly change your lifestyle.

Relaxation methods using yoga or biofeedback have been shown to lower blood pressure in practically everyone. To be effective over the long run, however, they must be used on a regular basis—at least daily, and more often in stressful situations. Biofeedback is an easy, inexpensive way to relax. Rather than spend a fortune on equipment and training, you can simply purchase a pulse monitor from a sporting goods store. It’s a small device that slips over the tip of the index finger and shows a continuous readout of pulse rate.

By observing exactly what situations raise your pulse rate, you can pinpoint areas of stress in your life. By concentrating on relaxing and lowering your pulse rate, you'll have a form of biofeedback to help you deal with everyday stress more effectively.

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Breathe Deeper and Better

Diaphragmatic breathing exercises can be especially beneficial for lowering blood pressure without medication. Many cases of what is called essential hypertension (where no underlying cause can be found) can be corrected through breathing and relaxation. Practitioners of yoga believe the movement of the diaphragm is instrumental in keeping many of the internal organs healthy. Certain yoga positions are designed so movements of the diaphragm massage and stimulate blood flow to the underlying organs.

Sedentary occupations, prolonged television viewing and the lack of exercise can all contribute to shallow breathing habits.

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Chiropractic Adjustments

A simple chiropractic adjustment could reduce your blood pressure. In a trial conducted at the Rush University Hypertension Center in Chicago, a group of 50 patients received either an adjustment to the upper cervical vertebra, known as the atlas, or a sham procedure designed to imitate the real thing but produce no benefit.

Those who received the real adjustment had an average decrease of 17 points in systolic blood pressure and 10 points in diastolic pressure. These results are similar to what can be achieved by typical two-drug combination therapy for hypertension. The decrease in blood pressure lasted for at least the eight weeks of follow up in the study.

The blood pressure–lowering effect likely is due to the fact that so many parts of the nervous system and cardiovascular system are packed together at that point in the neck. The atlas is the uppermost vertebra, and is held in place by soft tissue such as ligaments and muscles—instead of being interlocked with other vertebrae the way all the others are.

You can check yourself to see if a misaligned atlas could be causing your high blood pressure. Simply lie on your back on a hard surface—the kitchen floor will do fine—in bare feet. Ask a companion to compare the position of your heels. If they’re even, then the atlas isn’t out of alignment. If they’re uneven, then your companion should watch what happens to your heels as you turn your head from side to side. If their relative position changes as your head moves, then the atlas is out of alignment and an adjustment could help.

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As with my other recommendations for lowering blood pressure naturally, work with your doctor to monitor your pressure closely if you’re taking a prescription blood pressure medication. As the natural approach takes hold, you may need to adjust (or even eliminate) your dosage.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Blood Pressure

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