High blood pressure has earned the name “silent killer." Sadly, it’s well deserved.
Heart disease, sexual dysfunction, stroke, kidney failure, and aneurysms can all result from elevated blood pressure. And with 1 out of every 3 Americans suffering from this malady, its impact is huge.
Of course, there are many medications that can be prescribed for hypertension. But for a good number of people, elevated blood pressure is a lifestyle disease related to poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, stress, poor sleep, obesity, smoking and other factors that can be controlled or eliminated.
In other words, freedom from medication is an attainable goal for many. The natural approaches that I recommend here work for all ages, aren't expensive, and don’t carry the side effects common with prescription medication:
The use of essential oils has grown enormously in popularity, and many report a relaxing effect. In a study of spa workers, essential oil vapors reduced blood pressure and heart rate when used for an hour (but no longer). Oils to consider using: lavender, ylang ylang, clary sage, and frankincense.
The role of our gut health, or microbiome, has dominated medical news over the last five years. And in several studies, probiotics were shown to alter blood pressure. I recommend taking a high quality broad-spectrum daily probiotic with over 10 million colony forming units and eating fermented foods, like sauerkraut and pickles.
You’re probably familiar with the famous odor of urine after eating asparagus. But did you also know that the hundreds of active chemicals called cladophylls in this popular vegetable also have positive effects on the heart? Eating asparagus can help lower blood pressure while also packing in lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Meditation has been growing in popularity, and research shows that regular practice is associated with a drop in blood pressure. There are many different styles, so you can find one that works for you. Join in the movement.
While meditation is certainly a part of this, the movement and sweating that come with yoga practice offer added health benefits. Best of all, this ancient practice is suitable for both the young and old, and studies suggest that yoga can help to lower blood pressure.
Flaxseed is a rich source of alpha linolenic acid that can reduce inflammation, plus help lower blood pressure. I recommend adding two tablespoons of ground flax to your daily diet — you can work it in to everything from smoothies to yogurt and baked goods.
Beets are a rich source of nitrates and can help relax blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure. Whether cooked or juiced, the impact of beetroot juice on blood pressure is worth exploring.
Whether dry, steam or infrared, saunas have been shown to offer some heart benefits . In fact, one study found that in older adults, sauna therapy lowered blood pressure by over 10 mmHg — quite significant.
10. Sleep therapy
Poor sleep can result in inflammation, stiffer arteries and elevated blood pressure. Identifying and treating sleep apnea, avoiding stimulants before bed, applying sleep hygiene methods like dark and cold rooms, and limiting bright lights for at least 30 minutes before sleep can all assist in better sleep and lower blood pressure.
11. Consider the Daniel Fast
This ancient program, rooted in the Bible, involves eating only fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains for 21 days. One study found impressive improvements in cardiovascular health for both men and women, including a significant drop in blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
Time-tested lifestyle factors — eating a diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, exercising, maintaining proper body weight and avoiding smoking — are the foundation of blood pressure control. Focus your effort on achieving a daily practice of these core habits.
As Thomas Sydenham, MD said 400 years ago, "man is as old as his arteries." You now have eleven steps to help you remain young at heart and body.