High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects approximately 75 million American adults. It is a dangerous condition that can damage your heart and significantly increase your risk of heart attack and stroke — two of the leading causes of death in the United States.
- High blood pressure typically does not have symptoms.
- Staying hydrated keeps your blood vessels dilated, which helps lower blood pressure.
- Sunlight can help lower blood pressure.
The American Heart Association considers 120/80 to be a normal blood pressure reading. Unless you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure you may not realize anything is wrong so it is important to get tested each time you see your doctor, or more frequently if you have a family history of hypertension. Often, hypertension has no obvious symptoms, but it could be quietly causing damage and threatening your health. This condition overworks the heart and damages the walls of the blood vessels. If left untreated, it can lead to tears, ruptures, or increased plaque build-up in your heart, which increases your risk for heart failure, heart attack or stroke.
How to naturally lower your blood pressure
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:
- Meditate or take slow, steady deep breaths to calm the nervous system, relax and your dilate blood vessels. Breathing exercises help calm your sympathetic nervous system and your fight-or-flight response. This technique also encourages blood flow to your body’s tissues and causes your diaphragm to move up and down, which eases blood flow to your heart.
- Drink or eat plenty of water to re-hydrate your body and dilate your veins and arteries. If your body is well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood to your blood vessels and muscles.
- Try reflexology techniques on pressure points along the neck, arms, and feet. Reflexology and acupressure techniques have been studied for their effects on blood pressure and may have limited benefits.
- Eat fish, raw fruits and vegetables. For example, potassium from leafy green vegetables helps your kidneys remove sodium through your urine, which also helps lower your blood pressure.
- Find the sun to convert nitrate, which is stored in your skin, to nitric oxide, a compound that helps dilate your blood vessels. Just be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer.
Why risk a hypertension diagnosis when prevention is within reach? Take steps toward a healthier lifestyle now, so you can prevent high blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
All of these steps and techniques are things you should ask your doctor about as part of your personalized health plan. Preventative care from an experienced physician is the best way to fend off many health problems, and hypertension is no exception. Find a skilled St. Joseph Health primary care physician or heart specialist using our online provider directory. Download our health numbers report card to help you track your blood pressure and other common markers that measure heart health.