Lowering blood pressure is actually easier than you might think, and the solution doesn’t always require medication. 90% of blood pressure is what we call idiopathic. In other words, there isn’t a primary cause, but it is something that is directly related to what we eat and the way we live. Here are my top three ways to lower your blood pressure.
Exercising to lower blood pressure
If you aren’t regularly exercising, you need to start. Exercising is not only the best medicine for your heart health, brain health or just generally reducing inflammation, but it actually lowers blood pressure quit effectively. Although this may not seem intuitive, when you are exercising you obviously get your heart rate and blood pressure up.
When you are on the treadmill, running, swimming or whatever activity you are doing is finished your blood pressure and heart rate come down and stay down for close to 24 hours. You can imagine how regular exercise can actually be better than or the same as a medication to lower your blood pressure. This is one of the first things you should be doing.
If you aren’t active already, remember to start low and go up slow. Ask your doctor what activities are right for you. Often times just starting to go for a walk is a great first step.
Know what you are eating
Another way to lower blood pressure is to look at what we eat. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is very high in processed foods. Actually, over 64% is processed foods. Most of this processed food is “Frankenfood” like substances which I like to call them, are really high in sugar and salt. This excess sodium is a big contributor to high blood pressure in most people.
Not everybody who has high blood pressure is impacted by salt intake, but most people are salt sensitive. Looking at the amount of salt that we take is important. Just to get an idea of it the Standard American Diet (SAD) average is 3,400 milligrams a day of salt intake which is way too much. You want to keep your salt intake to less than a teaspoon full which is about 2,300 milligrams per day.
Avoiding processed foods and prepackaged foods which are higher in sodium as much as possible, learn to read labels to watch your salt intake.
Add more fiber to your diet
Another part of the diet which is extremely important is getting enough fiber. One way to reduce your sodium and increase your fiber particularly from fruits and vegetables (which is the best way to get that fiber) is by doing the DASH Diet. The DASH Diet which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension has been well studied with cookbooks, online recipes and all sorts of resources out there. The DASH Diet has been shown to be as effective as medication for lowering blood pressure!
The key components I would focus on is reducing the amount of salt and increasing the intake of whole fruits and whole vegetables. We are not talking about juicing; we are talking about whole fruit and vegetables. Because when you juice you take out the fiber which is the key part here when lowing blood pressure. Even so much so that just adding some psyllium husk powder (high fiber food) which is the key ingredient in Metamucil for example can lower your blood pressure.
With psyllium husk powder, you can start with 1-2 teaspoons mixed in water and eventually go up as tolerated to 2-3 tablespoons. This not only decreases blood pressure but has been shown to lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol as well.
The key things to remember here are exercise, lowering salt intake and increasing fiber in the forms of fruits and vegetables will go a long way in lowering your blood pressure naturally as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained physician, Integrative Medicine Doctor medical educator, public health expert, clinical researcher, and author.