Sometimes, because people know there is a medication for something, they automatically think that they must need that medication to correct their problem. Who would take a drug if they didn’t have to, right?
But there are lots of common health problems that can be addressed without taking medications and the results can be positive (rather than negative) side effects like more energy, increased vitality and better health.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one health problem that can often be addressed using natural means. Often called the silent killer because it creeps up on you without any symptoms, hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Research has shown that you can get hypertension under control without the use of pharma drugs. Even if it seems you have to take blood pressure medications, making lifestyle changes can help your medications work better and reduce or eliminate your need for them. If you’re on medication, tell your doctor what you’re doing because he or she will want to check on you regularly to watch your progress and adjust your meds.
Simple efforts on your part can result in measurable decreases in blood pressure. Even small drops in systolic pressure (the top number) readings are considered valuable. It’s estimated that a drop of just 2 points in systolic blood pressure could reduce deaths from stroke by about 6% and coronary artery disease by about 4%.
Here are 12 things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally:
#1: Follow the DASH diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is high in fruit, veggies and low-fat dairy, and low in fat, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages. Following this plan can drop your systolic blood pressure reading by 8-14 points. In fact, some research has shown that this approach may be as, or more, effective than drugs at combating hypertension.
#2: Lose weight. Okay, we know this can be hard. But it packs the biggest punch. It’s estimated that you could drop 5-20 points for every 22 pounds you lose. Even a 5 pound loss can help, though. Get help here.
#3: Limit your sodium to 2,400 mg day and you could drop 2-8 points.
#4: Exercise 5-7 days a week for 30 minutes and you could drop 4-9 points.
#5: Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men, 1 for women and you could drop 2-4 points.
#6: Get a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough sleep may contribute to hypertension.
#7: Reduce your stress. It can raise your blood pressure and over time, may contribute to the permanent condition of hypertension. Find ways to relax.
#8: Get enough potassium by eating a varied diet containing plenty of fruit, veggies, dairy and fish.
#9: Get enough calcium. Take a calcium supplement to make sure you are getting 1,000 mg a day if you’re under 50 and 1,200 mg if you’re over 50.
#10: Get at least 500 mg of vitamin C a day. Vitamin C may work as well as some prescription medications to lower blood pressure with long term use. In one study average blood pressure dropped 9% after one month. (If your blood pressure is normal, vitamin C will not affect it.)
#11: Get enough omega-3 fatty acids by eating fatty fish and by taking a high quality fish oil supplement (not contaminated with mercury.) In Japan, a study showed that men with the highest intakes of omega-3s had the lowest blood pressure.
#12: Try alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine. Some people have high blood pressure because their blood vessels can’t “relax.” They don’t dilate when they should, which can lead to high blood pressure. A study found that people who took 200 mg of alpha lipoic acid and 500 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine for eight weeks increased the diameter of their arteries and lowered their blood pressure. Ask your doctor if this combo might be right for you.
The bottom line is that nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure, which puts them at serious risk for developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. If you have high blood pressure, you may be able to avoid the use of drugs to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range naturally by making simple lifestyle changes and using supplements.