Prevent high blood pressure with natural interventions that are just as clinically effective as taking anti-hypertensive medication. High blood pressure is a problem because it changes the structure and function of the blood vessels, increasing your risk of disease. Here are five natural lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
#1: Reduce Body Fat
Reducing your body fat percentage is one of the first things you should do to lower your blood pressure. The more body fat you have, the harder the heart has to work to circulate blood to all your organs and tissues. Peripheral resistance in the blood vessels increases and causes hypertension, putting an extra load on the heart.
Make It Happen: Get active and train with weights to improve lean muscle mass that sustains your metabolic rate. Eat a healthy diet of plenty of high-quality protein, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fat. Avoid processed foods that are packed with calories and sodium.
#2: Train With Weights
Many people think of aerobic exercise as the go-to workout for lowering blood pressure. But weight training can lower blood pressure as well: A Brazilian study of older women with hypertension tested the effect of a training program that used a muscular endurance protocol with 90-second active rest periods in between sets (1). Participants walked rapidly around the weight room during rest periods instead of standing around.
Results showed a significant decrease in diastolic and systolic blood pressure that was maintained for an hour after training, indicating a sustained decrease in blood pressure. The aerobic nature of the rest periods increased blood flow and activated the mechanisms of shear stress, resulting in an increase in the production of nitric oxide that dilates the blood vessels.
Make It Happen: Try a circuit training program utilizing multi-joint exercises in which you alternate an upper and lower body exercise, such as a squat and a bench press or step-up and overhead press. Use moderately heavy loads in the 60 to 70 percent of maximal range with active 90-second rest periods.
#3: Eat High-Quality Protein
A 2012 study found that when individuals with high blood pressure increased their protein intake by 60 grams a day so that protein made up 25 percent of their calories, they significantly lowered blood pressure (5 mm Hg decrease in systolic and 2.7 mm Hg drop in diastolic) (2). Researchers think a high-protein intake lowers blood pressure by improving the overall function of blood vessels, allowing them to dilate more effectively.
Make It Happen: Plan meals around high-quality animal proteins (eggs, fish, meat, dairy) because they will give you the greatest number of amino acids per calorie. Complete proteins will allow for greater meal satisfaction and less hunger. Additionally, the greater amino acids provided mean your body is better able to use the food to build new tissue for a higher metabolic rate.
#4: Get Your Fish Oil
It’s a no-brainer to include a small dose of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA that are found in fish and grass-fed meat in your diet daily if you need to lower pressure. Fish oil increases blood flow and improves vasodilation, thereby lowering blood pressure. One study found that taking 2 grams of fish oil a day for 12 months lowered systolic readings by 2.7 mm Hg and diastolic by 1.3 mm Hg in people with high blood pressure (3).
Make It Happen: By eating fish or grass-fed meat you can typically get all the EPA and DHA you need. But if these foods aren’t on your daily menu, it’s easy to supplement with a few grams of high quality fish oil in capsule or liquid form. Just be sure you trust your fish oil brand because rancid fish oil is a big problem in the supplement industry.
#5: Take Magnesium
Magnesium is well known for it’s all-around relaxing effect on the body. It calms the nervous system, lowering heart rate and allowing the blood vessels to relax, leading to lower blood pressure. One scientific review shows that getting adequate magnesium can decrease blood pressure readings to a greater degree than taking a blood pressure lowering drug (4). For example, a clinical trial that tested the effect of antihypertensive and lipid lowering drugs considered a drop in systolic blood pressure of 2 mm Hg to be significant for reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
But magnesium, does an even better job than medication: Across all studies reviewed, systolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 3 to 4 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 2 to 3 mm Hg from magnesium supplementation. The most notable drop in blood pressure came from taking a dose of 370 mg/day of magnesium.
Make It Happen: The USDA recommends an intake of 320 mg/day for women and 420 mg/day for men, both of which are low compared to what most alternative medical specialists would consider an adequate dose—generally in the range of 500 mg/day of magnesium from a high-quality source such as magnesium glycinate, citrate, or taurate, among others.