Too much booze is known to raise blood pressure. But having just a little bit could do the opposite. Light to moderate drinking (defined as one drink or fewer per day) is associated with a lower risk for hypertension in women, according to research from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Moderate drinking could play a role in heart disease prevention too, studies show.
In addition to medications your doctor may prescribe, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help to lower your blood pressure. These include things like eating a healthy diet, maintaining a regular exercise routine, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake. Here are five more blood pressure-reducing techniques that don’t require a prescription:
"Blood pressure guidelines are not updated at regular intervals. Instead, they are changed when sufficient new evidence suggests the old ones weren't accurate or relevant anymore," says Dr. Paul Conlin, an endocrinologist with Harvard-affiliated VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The goal now with the new guidelines is to help people address high blood pressure — and the problems that may accompany it like heart attack and stroke — much earlier."
For some reason, health care providers often think of high blood pressure—or hypertension—as a "man's problem." More men have hypertension than women when they're younger, but once women reach menopause, their risk becomes greater than men's. Overall, about half of Americans with high blood pressure are women—and they're less likely to be diagnosed and treated for it.
Most doctors have been taught that once a diagnosis of “high blood pressure” has been made, blood pressure medication is the treatment of choice. As a result, many physicians believe that the current definition of “high” blood pressure is also the same level of blood pressure at which drug treatments are worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may request you have more readings over the course of a few days or weeks. A hypertension diagnosis is rarely given after just one reading. Your doctor needs to see evidence of a sustained problem. That’s because your environment can contribute to increased blood pressure, such as the stress you may feel by being at the doctor’s office. Also, blood pressure levels change throughout the day.
While high blood pressure doesn’t have any distinctive symptoms in itself, there can be many associated conditions and signs that high blood pressure may be affecting your body and causing damage. When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause the following symptoms in the body, which may worsen over time. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms chances are your high blood pressure may be placing you at risk of developing further conditions and should be addressed immediately.
If you have ever been in a hot tub with the “jets” on, you have observed a circulating system. When the pump is “on,” the water circulates from the hot tub, through pipes, into a pump, and then back to the hot tub. In this way, the water can be put through a filter to remove impurities and be re-utilized again and again. A hot tub with its pump “on” is a simple circulatory system. When the pump is “off,” the water stops circulating and stays wherever it is in the system.
Sodium (salt) sensitivity: Some people have high sensitivity to sodium (salt), and their blood pressure increases if they use salt. Reducing sodium intake tends to lower their blood pressure. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Fast foods and processed foods contain particularly high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines also contain large amounts of sodium. Read food labels and learn about salt content in foods and other products as a healthy first step to reducing salt intake. Fast food restaurants also make the salt and calorie content of their food available to consumers at their restaurants,
For example, if you have chest pain (angina), your doctor may recommend a beta blocker, which can lower your blood pressure and also prevent your chest pain, reduce your heart rate and decrease your risk of death. If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, taking a diuretic plus an ACE inhibitor can decrease your risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, you may need an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor blocker.
A little tomato on your menu could be the key to healthier blood pressure. In addition to boasting plenty of vitamin C and quercetin, tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have linked to significant reductions in blood pressure. Just don’t try to get your fix from ketchup or bottled tomato sauce; the combination of sugar and salt in most recipes can send your blood sugar through the roof.
If you're not taking a diuretic and your blood pressure remains high, talk to your doctor about adding one or replacing a drug you currently take with a diuretic. Diuretics or calcium channel blockers may work better for people of African heritage and older people than do angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors alone. A common side effect of diuretics is increased urination.
Diuretics are among the oldest known medications for treating high blood pressure. They work in the tiny tubes (tubules) of the kidneys to promote the removal of salt from the body. Water (fluid) also is removed along with the salt; however, the exact mechanism whereby diuretics lower blood pressure is not clearly known. The leading theory is that they directly cause the muscles surrounding blood vessels to relax. Diuretics may be used alone for high blood pressure. More frequently, however, low doses of diuretics are used in combination with other medications for high blood pressure to enhance the effect of the other medications.
Daily exercise: Being fit is a key part of blood pressure control. All kids with hypertension should exercise and play sports for 1 hour each day — with some activity (like jogging) most days and higher levels of activity (like running) 3 times a week. Usually, exercise is restricted only when hypertension is very severe. Kids with severe hypertension should not do any weight- or power-lifting, bodybuilding, or strength training until their blood pressure is under control and a doctor says it's OK.
This cruciferous veggie is a good source of the blood pressure-regulating minerals magnesium, calcium, and potassium. In fact, high amounts of those three minerals is a telltale sign of many foods to lower blood pressure. Previous research in animals has found that a diet high in broccoli sprouts may help reduce blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Broccoli sprouts are high in compounds that may help reduce damage to arteries, which may play a role in high blood pressure.
Diuretics can lead to an increase in potassium loss, known as hypokalemia, which, in turn can affect muscular function -- including the muscles of the heart. There is also an increased risk for gout with diuretics -- as well as the possibility of weakness, thirst, dehydration, and increased urination. Changes in blood sugar levels are also possible. Skin reactions, some severe, are possible with thiazide diuretics (such as hydrochlorothiazide). Potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone (Aldactone) may cause breast enlargement in males.
Add olive oil to your blood pressure shopping list. The main reason for this benefit is because of polyphenols. These compounds are known for fighting inflammation and reducing blood pressure, according to UCDavis. That’s why olive oil is a key part of the DASH diet and one of the foods that lower blood pressure. Next, check out the 11 things you need to know about the DASH diet.