The Key to Lower Blood Pressure

It’s not only what works but by how much? Let’s discuss the ways to lower blood pressure one by one and see what you can take to heart. Learn actual figures from bonafide recognized scientific studies and get tips from this doctor’s practical guide.

First, how can you know whether any method is working for you? Well, you have to measure your blood pressure yourself. No other way is practical. But it is easy. See my page on taking it yourself: How To Take Blood Pressure

Exercise

This is my favorite and it really works to lower blood pressure. A good vigorous program of 30 to 45 minutes a day at least 4 and preferably 5 or 6 days a week. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, etc. Just so it is more or less continuous. And another thing; you can only get out of it what you put into it and no more.

An analysis of 54 controlled studies showed a lowering of 3.84 mm systolic and 2.58 mm diastolic. High intensity (more than 70% oxygen consumption) or a frequency of more than 3 days a week did not increase the result. I am not sure why not. However, you can run your own trial on yourself.

Weight Loss

Another favorite! It really works, too. The trouble is getting yourself to actually do it and maintain it. Not easy, witness the rate of obesity and overweight in this country. An analysis of controlled studies showed that an 11 lb. weight loss would lower blood pressure by 4.44 mm systolic and 3.57 mm diastolic. This corresponds to approximately 1 mm Hg for each kilogram (2.2 lbs.) lost. The effect was greater in people with higher blood pressure. Also weight loss increased the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. It will make your elevation go away or make it easier to control. A winning situation no matter how you look at it.

Diet

This is going to be about the foods that you eat and exclude sodium, potassium and alcohol for now. The best known study is the one called DASH. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.) This diet emphasized fruits, vegetables, nuts and low-fat dairy products along with reduced saturated and total fat and sugars. It was compared to a typical American diet. After 8 weeks the DASH diet lowered systolic blood pressure by 5.5 mm. The effect was more pronounced in African Americans with 6.9 mm reduction and in people with hypertension, an 11.6 mm reduction. Yes, your diet can lower blood pressure, even if you don’t lose weight. See High Blood Pressure Diet

Sodium (Salt)

Salt reduction has a strong ability to lower blood pressure. Studies of populations whose diets are naturally low in salt show a near absence of high blood pressure. The usual American daily intake is 3.3 grams of sodium or 8.25 grams of salt (NaCl). Various good studies have shown that a reduction to 1.5 grams of sodium lowers blood pressure by 6.8 mm Hg. That’s cutting salt intake by a little more than half, not really difficult to do. Give up the salt shaker, it’s one of the easier measures you can take. Rediscover what foods really taste like.

Potassium

Scientists have noticed an association between lower blood pressure and potassium probably due to its ability to promote the excretion of sodium (natriuresis). Results from clinical trials have been inconsistent, however. An analysis of 33 studies with 2600 subjects showed reductions of 4.44 and 2.45 mm Hg in systolic and diastolic pressures. The subjects took at least 60 mmols (2000 mg or 5 bananas) of potassium daily. Greater reductions occurred in people with already elevated blood pressure. Decide this one with your doctor.

Alcohol

Studies have linked substantial alcohol intake and elevated blood pressure. In men who consume more than 3 drinks a day a 2.6 mm Hg systolic and 1.6 mm Hg diastolic increase was seen. African American men were especially susceptible. In 15 controlled trials involving 2234 subjects, reducing alcohol intake in heavy drinkers lowered blood pressure by 3.31 mm systolic and 2.52 mm diastolic. It worked out to about 1 mm reduction for each drink-per-day decrease.

Fish Oil Supplementation

In large doses of 3 grams per day fish oil lowered blood pressure by 4.5 mm systolic and 2.5 mm diastolic. One third of the subjects complained of belching, fishy taste, bad breath and abdominal pain. Yuck!
Let’s find other ways to lower blood pressure. On the other hand if you tolerate it well and your spouse doesn't mind then take it, it works.

Smoking Cessation

Oddly enough, despite the fact that nicotine raises blood pressure, little evidence exists that smoking cessation lowers blood pressure. Possibly the effect of nicotine is transient enough to not cause sustained hypertension. In any event, smoking is such a killer that we don’t need another reason to stop.

Calcium and Magnesium

Calcium supplementation can reduce blood pressure by 1.4 mm systolic and 0.8 mm diastolic, a small amount. There is inadequate data and therefore no reason to believe that magnesium lowers blood pressure. A few small studies produced mixed results.

Doctor’s Practical Guide:

There are few people who can institute complete changes in their lifestyle all at once. Here is what you can do: Just start doing something; small changes in diet, a little exercise, cutting down the salt, a little weight loss, etc. Do what you can and then just keep working on it. Keep trying to do better. You might be amazed.
Naturally, the only way you can know if these changes are working to lower blood pressure is to monitor it yourself. How To Take Blood Pressure

Obviously, when these measures fail there are excellent medications available. This large subject demands a separate discussion. See

Blood Pressure Medication


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