From long hours at the office to those little annoyances like traffic jams, day-to-day life provides us with a seemingly endless supply of little stresses. While those itty-bitty amounts of stress may seem like no big deal at first, over time, they can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, taking your health along for the ride. That’s why you need to stock up on foods that lower blood pressure.
Blood pressure readings fall into four general categories, ranging from normal to stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension). The level of your blood pressure determines what kind of treatment you may need. To get an accurate blood pressure measurement, your doctor should evaluate your readings based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings at three or more office visits.
Monitor your blood pressure at home. Home blood pressure monitoring can help you keep closer tabs on your blood pressure, show if medication is working, and even alert you and your doctor to potential complications. Home blood pressure monitoring isn't a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations. Even if you get normal readings, don't stop or change your medications or alter your diet without talking to your doctor first.
In this article, we will describe the kinds of drugs that are used for hypertension, and what steps your doctor should take in choosing (from the incredible array of options) your optimal treatment. Finally, we will provide a reasonably complete list of all the drugs currently used in the U.S. (and in most developed countries) for the treatment of hypertension.
Anyone can develop hypotension, but certain groups of people are more likely to experience it, and there are different types. For instance, orthostatic (positional) hypotension, which occurs when you stand up after sitting or lying down, is more common in older adults. Typically, “your body has certain compensatory mechanisms to prevent your blood pressure from falling when you stand up,” explains Willie Lawrence, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. But, he adds, “orthostatic hypotension is a problem for some people because these reflexes that should occur, don’t occur.”
5. Take apple cider vinegar. In addition to lowering blood pressure almost overnight, apple cider vinegar has a myriad of fringe benefits. Apple cider vinegar helps with indigestion, especially if you suffer from diarrhea. It also soothes sore throats, cures hiccups instantly, and lowers cholesterol. Most importantly, it helps with weight loss by improving metabolism and reducing water retention -- and a healthy weight is key to normalizing blood pressure.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.
Blood pressure control is a lifelong challenge. Hypertension can progress through the years, and treatments that worked earlier in life may need to be adjusted over time. Blood pressure control may involve gradually making lifestyle changes like diet, weight loss, exercise, and possibly taking medicine if necessary. In some situations, medications may be recommended immediately. As with many diseases, you and your doctor should work together to find the treatment plan that works for you.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg. The top, systolic, number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom, diastolic, number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. If you’re an adult and your systolic pressure is 120 to 139, or your diastolic pressure is 80 to 89 (or both), you have pre-hypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.
In most cases, the goal of treatment is to bring down the systolic pressure to less than 140 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure to less than 90 mm Hg. For people with diabetes, target blood pressure goals are lower (e.g., less than 130/80 mm Hg). For some people are who at high risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke or heart attack, your doctor may recommend a systolic pressure target of less than 120 mm Hg. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate goal for you.
Americans eat far too much dietary sodium, up to three times the recommended total amount, which is 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily for individuals with high blood pressure, says Dr. Fisher. It doesn't take much sodium to reach that 1,500-mg daily cap — just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. There's half of that amount of sodium in one Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich. Weed out high-sodium foods by reading labels carefully. "It is very difficult to lower dietary sodium without reading labels, unless you prepare all of your own food," says Dr. Fisher. Beware in particular of what the American Heart Association has dubbed the "salty six," common foods where high amounts of sodium may be lurking:
Not Smoking While smoking is a proven risk factor for heart problems like heart attack and stroke, researchers are still trying to understand its connection to high blood pressure. Both smoking and secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of plaque inside the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which high blood pressure accelerates.
Many leafy greens, including everything arugula and kale to spinach and collard greens, contain potassium and magnesium which are key minerals to control blood pressure, according to Harvard Medical School. These nutrients are an important part of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or high blood pressure), which suggests a variety of foods that lower blood pressure. A potassium-rich diet helps the body become more efficient at flushing out excess sodium, which can raise blood pressure, and magnesium helps promote healthy blood flow, according to nutritionist Joy Bauer.
And remember: If you do a water fast, it’s critical to drink high-quality water. (Many Food Revolution members like the AquaTru water filter because it delivers high-quality water for a remarkably affordable price. Find out more and get a special discount here. If you order from this link, the AquaTru manufacturer will contribute a portion of the proceeds to support Food Revolution Network’s mission of healthy, ethical, sustainable food for everyone who eats.)
Consider once again the analogy of the garden hose. If you turn on the water “harder,” there is more pressure in the hose. Excessive salt in the diet can result in excessive fluid volume in the blood, which results in elevated blood pressure. This cause, too, is reversible, as a plant-based diet of whole, natural foods, devoid of added salt, is naturally low in sodium chloride.
Beta-blockers cause the heart to slow down and so some of their side effects can be traced to that mechanism of action. Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and fainting are possible. Beta-blockers also affect the respiratory system, so other side effects include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Beta-blockers should not be withdrawn suddenly, as that could result in a heart attack or sudden death.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
Medications used to lower blood pressure include diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide*), beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol, metoprolol), ACE inhibitors (e.g., ramipril, enalapril, lisinopril), calcium channel blockers (e.g., nifedipine, amlodipine), angiotensin II receptor blockers (e.g., losartan, valsartan), and direct renin inhibitors (e.g., aliskiren).
Take your medicines and monitor your blood pressure. Take the medications prescribed for you regularly and don’t stop them except on the advice of your health care provider. Hypertension tends to worsen with age and you cannot tell if you have high blood pressure by the way you feel, so have your health care provider measure your blood pressure periodically. You may also want to buy a home blood pressure monitor, available in many drug stores, to measure your blood pressure more frequently. Your health care provider or pharmacist can help you choose the right device. Many drug stores also have blood pressure measuring devices you can use in the store.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These medications — such as lisinopril (Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten) and others — help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels. People with chronic kidney disease may benefit from having an ACE inhibitor as one of their medications.
For this reason, Dr. Alan Goldhamer and his colleagues at the Center for Conservative Therapy set out to carefully document the effectiveness of supervised water-only fasting and to report the results to the scientific community in a way that other doctors might find convincing. To assist him in this task, Dr. Goldhamer and his research staff at the Center sought the help of one of the world’s leading nutritional biochemists, Professor T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University.