Control Blood Pressure without Drugs
When I first started practicing medicine, most of my patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) were middle age or older. Treating a 25- or 30-year-old with this condition was not the norm. Today, though, it’s par for the course.
Overall, one-third of the US population (about 67 million people) suffers from hypertension. Nineteen percent of these patients are between the ages of 24–32!
It’s no wonder hypertension rates have skyrocketed over the decades, even in younger people. As a country, we’re heavier and unhealthier than ever. We need to reverse this trend, and I’ll tell you how to do that.
But first, let me give you some basics on blood pressure and why it matters so much.
Blood Pressure Basics
With every heartbeat, blood flows from your heart to the rest of your body through your arteries. Blood pressure is the force of that blood pushing against your artery walls.
Blood pressure is at its highest during a beat. This is called systolic pressure. In between beats, when the heart is at rest, pressure falls. This is your diastolic pressure. These two numbers make up your blood pressure reading, expressed as systolic over diastolic (for example, 120/80 mmHg).
Your blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day. If it stays high for too long, though, the constant force on your arteries can create microscopic tears. These tears can turn into scar tissue, providing the perfect lodging place for fat, cholesterol, and other particles—collectively called plaque.
Buildup of plaque narrows the arteries, which requires your heart to work extra hard to push blood through. This can ultimately result in heart disease, stroke, hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), kidney damage, and various other problems.
By and large, hypertension is a lifestyle disease. Don’t get me wrong…there are factors you can’t control, such as genetics, age, and race (African Americans have higher risk). But for the most part, you can blame bad diet, lack of exercise, poor sleep habits, uncontrolled stress, smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity.
Considering half the nation is either overweight or obese, the rise in blood pressure among 20- and 30-somethings makes perfect sense.
A Silent Killer That Must Be Treated
No matter your age, race, or sex, untreated hypertension is a ticking time bomb. Most people experience no symptoms, so you may have high blood pressure and not know it. Eventually, it will hurt you…possibly even kill you. This is why you have to treat it right away.
Like so many diseases, the pharmaceutical industry has turned hypertension into a condition that can be managed by taking pills, rather cured through lifestyle changes.
Common blood pressure meds don’t solve the root causes of hypertension and have terrible side effects (including dizziness, headaches, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and heart arrhythmia).
Not worth it, in my opinion. Especially when you can lower your blood pressure naturally and without side effects. Here’s how you do just that.
Natural Blood Pressure Solutions
I’ve lost count of how many patients have been able to successfully wean themselves off of their medications—and more importantly, get their blood pressure totally under control—with these lifestyle changes, which are natural remedies for high blood pressure.
Some are simpler than others, but they’re all equally important.
Put an end to bad habits. Quit smoking, and drink only occasionally and in moderation. And be sure you’re getting plenty of sleep—at least seven to eight hours a night.
Drink water. Water thins the blood, helping it flow more freely. Aim for a half-ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you would drink 80 ounces of water, or 10 eight-ounce glasses per day. (Soda, juice, coffee, and other caffeinated or sugary drinks do not count toward this total!)
Adjust your diet. Focus on whole, fresh foods, including lean meats and poultry, organic fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, some low-fat dairy (or alternatives such as almond or rice milk), and healthy fats like avocado and olive and sesame oils. Some specific foods that positively influence blood pressure include celery, garlic, raw cacao, almonds, cayenne pepper, and eggs. Avoid as often as possible high-sodium foods, fast food, sugar, processed snacks/meals, and trans fats.
Stress Less. Stress initiates the fight-or-flight response, elevating cortisol and adrenaline, tensing up muscles, and spiking blood pressure. All this comes in handy when you need to quickly escape a bear in the woods or a moving vehicle in your path. But nonstop cortisol and adrenaline streaming through your veins can wreak havoc on your entire system. Some great stress-busting tools include therapy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, deep breathing, visualization, and exercise. Speaking of exercise…
Get moving! I get it, not everyone loves to exercise. But when it comes to controlling blood pressure, it’s non-negotiable. Study after study confirms that exercise strengthens the heart, improves blood pressure, and decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and countless other conditions. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, start by walking for 10–15 minutes a day, and gradually increase your time and distance. Try interval and weight training as well. The more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn.
Take blood pressure-supportive supplements. These nutrients work much the same way as prescription blood pressure drugs, but without the harsh side effects.
- Nattokinase (derived from fermented soy beans) improves blood pressure by preventing the hardening of blood vessels and aiding in the breakdown of a clotting agent called fibrin. This inhibits abnormal thickening of blood.
- Grape seed extract opens up the blood vessels, allowing for smoother blood flow. Studies have found that it can significantly reduce systolic pressure and heart rate.
- Hawthorn contains antioxidant flavonoids that help dilate blood vessels and protect the arteries from damage. Research shows it may reduce diastolic blood pressure.
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids combat inflammation, lower blood pressure, and enhance heart health. They also act as natural blood thinners.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) protects the heart in many ways. It prevents inflammation and oxidative damage in the arteries. In addition, one study found that it has the potential to lessen systolic pressure by up to 17 mmHg and diastolic pressure by as much as 10 mmHg without major side effects.
Using this natural lifestyle and supplement approach, I’m confident you can manage your blood pressure and take control of your health, without the high cost and risk of prescription drugs.
Last Updated: August 21, 2018
Originally Published: February 13, 2015