Unlike many other chronic diseases, hypertension (high blood pressure) is potentially curable in some patients. But, the cure requires a commitment to substantial lifestyle change. However, if blood pressure ranges do not come down to normal with these modifications, people with hypertension should expect to be on medicine for the rest of their lives. People with a strong genetic predisposition to high blood pressure or those with secondary causes for their hypertension (like kidney disease) do not generally respond to lifestyle interventions and may require medicines also.
There is considerable scientific evidence that adopting the following lifestyle modifications can help some people avoid, reduce, or even eliminate the need for medicines to treat high blood pressure.
If you make just one lifestyle modification, it should be to lose weight if you are overweight. Not only is obesity a major contributor to hypertension, it is also associated with other cardiovascular risks like high cholesterol and diabetes. The best way to lose weight is to combine a moderate exercise program with a healthy diet.
A personal trainer and a registered dietitian can help you get started.
Not everyone responds to salt in the same way, but some people's blood pressure is affected by the amount of salt they eat. Since there is no easy way to determine who is salt sensitive and who is not, the best advice is to
keep your salt intake low. Some nutritionists advise keeping sodium intakes below 1,500 mg/day. This can be difficult in an era of processed foods, which tend to be high in salt. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you buy to see how much sodium they contain.
The best way to limit sodium is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and freshly prepared foods, which are naturally low in sodium.
You may want to talk to a dietitian about the DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. This diet was designed to help people lower their blood pressure.
Even independent of its favorable effects on weight, regular aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure. You may get benefit from participating in an activity like walking briskly for 30 minutes every day, but it is best to do something you enjoy. Remember, once the exercise stops, so do its benefits.
While moderate alcohol consumption may be beneficial to your health, excessive alcohol is clearly associated with increased blood pressure. Men should restrict their alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day. For women, the limit is one drink.
Smoking is bad for your health in so many ways. It increases the risk of having heart disease among other things. Quitting smoking does not directly lower blood pressure, but it is important in patients with high blood pressure to reduce their overall risk of death. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
There are many natural remedies that have been studied as possible treatments for hypertension. Some examples that may offer benefit include:
- Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, antioxidant vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, potassium
- Substances found in food, such as omega-6 fatty acids, dark chocolate, garlic, tomato extract
- Herbs and supplements, such as stevia, arginine, coenzyme Q10
- Alternative therapies, such as relaxation therapies, Qi Gong, tai chi, yoga
If you are interested in taking herbs or supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first. These substances may interact with other medicines you are taking or worsen a condition that you have.
Work with your doctor to make a plan to lower your blood pressure. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a dietitian and other health professionals to help you get started.
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 3, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2014.
High blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed November 19, 2014.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 5, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Hypertension alternative treatments. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 28, 2014. Accessed November 19, 2014.
Your guide to lowering blood pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf. Published May 2003. Accessed November 19, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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