How to Reduce High Blood Pressure Without Using Any Medication
High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the most common health issues in most of the developed countries. It also increases the chance of having heart disease or a stroke. To keep blood pressure under control, it’s necessary to take medications and make some simple changes in your eating habits. A healthy eating plan can make a pronounced difference in the health of your heart. So, here are some of the ways to reduce blood pressure without medications.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, popularly known as the DASH diet, is a flexible and balanced eating plan that has already proven its worth in lowering high blood pressure. The effect of this diet was first observed in the landmark study. Subsequent research, in particular the 2005 OmniHeart Study, elaborates on the DASH eating plan, confirming its effectiveness in controlling high blood pressure.
The diet focuses on increasing the intake of food that helps bring down the high levels of your blood pressure. The diet can also keep some people from developing high blood pressure. It’s also known to fit most groups irrespective of factors such as age, sex, race and hypertension status although its effects are most pronounced in African-Americans with high blood pressure.
The DASH diet includes whole grain products, lots of vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and fewer sweets. It also has lower sodium (salt) in it compared to the typical American diet. The eating plan is also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber that are expected to lower blood pressure.
Modified DASH Diet
The OmniHeart Study takes the DASH eating plan a step further by introducing a few changes into the already existing one. This diet not only keeps blood pressure under control but also helps in improving the cholesterol profiles and lowering the levels of triglycerides, other factors that put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
The basics of this diet are similar to DASH, but the difference is that unsaturated fat or protein replaces the carbohydrates in DASH. It’s divided into three different types:
- High carbohydrate diet
- High unsaturated fat diet
- High protein diet
The high-carb diet is similar to the DASH diet. The other two diets, high-unsaturated fat diet and high protein diet, are considered to be much better in controlling blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, triglycerides and more. So, the modified diet has more benefits than the regular DASH eating plan.
Restrict Salt Intake
Salt plays a significant role in blood pressure and people with high blood pressure are generally advised to cut down on their salt intake. However, researchers are still debating whether everyone would benefit from reducing salt intake or just those who have high blood pressure. Some of the researchers also believe that cutting back on salt intake has a very modest influence on your level of blood pressure.
In spite of this continuing debate, experts agree that those who are salt-sensitive such as the elderly, obese, diabetics and African Americans should consider cutting back on salt. Studies have found that if you’re salt-sensitive, a low-salt diet is likely to lower your blood pressure and subsequent risk of heart attack and stroke.
Individuals who are salt-sensitive and have prehypertension, hypertension or heart failure should reduce their salt intake to 1500mg a day or less. For those who do not fall into these categories, it’s best to keep your sodium intake below 2300 mg, even if your blood pressure is normal.
For reducing your salt intake, some of the following tips can come in handy
- Opt for vegetables that are fresh, frozen or canned with no added salt.
- Opt for fresh poultry, fish and lean meat rather than canned or processed types.
- Use herbs, spices and salt-free seasonings when cooking in place of the salt.
- Cook rice, pasta and hot cereals without salt.
- Cut back on instant or flavored rice pasta and cereal mixes.
- Cut back on frozen dinners, packaged food, canned soups and bottled salad dressings.
- Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove sodium.
- Buy low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions of a food item, if available.
- Opt for breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium or sodium-free.
- Snack on fresh fruits instead of junk food like chips and fries.
The level of sodium can vary widely within similar food categories. Even foods that do not contain any salt can have a high sodium content. So, while trying to cut back on salt, you can go for some of the following options:
- Among dairy products milk, Swiss cheese and vanilla ice cream have lower sodium content in comparison to their counterparts.
- Among fruits and vegetables fresh, steamed asparagus; orange juice; and raw tomato have lower sodium content.
- Halibut, broiler or fryer chicken, white meat and ground beef are low in sodium.
- Kellogg’s Kashi Cinna-Raisin Crunch cereal, shredded wheat and old-fashioned cooked oatmeal have minimal amounts of sodium.
- For the sweet tooth Gummi bear candies, Silver Palate Spanish and Balsamic Country salad dressing and oil popped popcorn are good options.
Another option is to use “lite” salt or potassium chloride in your diet. However, it’s not recommended for use in cooking because it gives a bitter taste to the food when heated at high temperatures. Also people with kidney disease or those taking diuretics may need to avoid potassium as well as salt. So, before you go for “lite” salt in your diet, consult your doctor about your risks.
Watch Your Fat Intake
It’s important that you minimize your intake of fat. Not all fats are bad for health; some are in fact necessary such as the omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for keeping a healthy heart. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, oils such as canola oil and nuts and grains like flaxseed. Large amounts of these fatty acids help reduce high blood pressure.
Get Enough Minerals and Dietary Fiber
Most studies have proved that minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium play a significant role in controlling blood pressure. These minerals are not only effective in controlling blood pressure but are also necessary for various other reasons; the calcium, for instance, is vital for preventing osteoporosis. Therefore, ensure that you have these minerals in your diet. Some of the food items rich in these minerals are:
- Potassium rich - sweet potato, tomato paste, baked potato, canned white beans, plain yogurt, halibut, green soybeans, banana, spinach, fat-free milk, orange juice.
- Calcium rich - yogurt, skimmed or fat-free milk, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, sardines, salmon, tofu, rhubarb, collards, spinach, kale, bok choy.
- Magnesium rich - fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, meat, nuts, poultry and whole grains.
Apart from these minerals dietary fiber also helps reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Foods such as apples, barley, brown rice, corn, legumes, nuts, potatoes with skin, prunes, whole grain cereal and bread and sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fibers.
Restrict Alcohol Intake
Heavy drinking increases blood pressure and also has many adverse effects on your health. It can also interfere with blood pressure medication at times. With these things in mind you must cut down on your alcohol intake. Consuming modest amounts of alcohol, however, has several benefits since it lowers the risk of coronary artery disease. Two drinks in a day for men and one drink a day for women is considered to be the right amount for consuming alcohol.
Mind Your Weight
Being overweight not only raises your blood pressure, but it also puts you at a risk of several other conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea and some cancers. Therefore, it’s very important to watch your weight.
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, meaning eating fewer calories than your body requires and burning more calories than you normally do. However, in order to achieve a healthy weight, do not fall prey to the fad diets and remember that weight loss is a slow process so it takes some time before you actually note a difference.