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July 24, 2012, last updated July 29, 2014

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial
Board.]





High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” for good
reason. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart
attack and stroke, which together kill more than 750,000
people in the United States every year (Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention data.) High blood pressure affects
more than 74.5 million people in the United States,
according to the American Heart Association, and that’s
just the people who have been diagnosed - many of us are
unaware we suffer from this deadly condition.

Can you lower blood pressure without medications?  The
answer, in many cases, is "yes". It’s not too late to lower
your blood pressure – take steps now and you are likely to
lead a longer and healthier life.

What’s more, blood pressure solutions don’t only come
from the doctor. Did you know that there are natural ways
to lower your blood pressure? Diet, supplements, exercise
and even herbs help keep your blood pressure at a healthy
level.

What is Blood Pressure?

We all need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is transported to
every organ in the body through the blood, using pressure.
This is your blood pressure – the force your heart uses to
pump blood out through your veins and arteries.

Blood pressure is measured by two readings, the systolic
blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic
(the first number) is the pressure in your blood vessels
when your heart contracts, and diastolic (the second
number) is the pressure when the heart is at rest. (Read
more about
what blood pressure means.)

What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and it is
categorized as 140/90 mmHg or higher over a period of
time. One high reading doesn’t mean you suffer from high
blood pressure – you may be stressed or you just ran for
the bus.

A physician takes readings over time and uses this to tell
whether you have high blood pressure.

If you consistently have a reading of 140/90 mmHg or
above you are at risk of damaging your arteries and putting
a huge strain on your heart. These problems, over time,
cause heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure may
even shrink the volume of your brain, new studies have
found. (
Read more about how hypertension can shrink
your brain volume.)

How Can You Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally?

Drugs help lower blood pressure but they are not the only
answer. You can start by cutting salt from your diet. The
sodium in table salt holds excess fluid and puts added
strain on your heart.

The 2001 Cochrane review of 13 studies found people with
diabetes who reduced their salt intake by 8.5g a day also
lowered their blood pressure by 7/3mmHg – a similar
result to taking blood pressure-lowering medication. The
American Heart Association recommends consuming less
than 1,500mg of sodium a day – less or none if you suffer
from high blood pressure. It’s not very much; just over
half a teaspoon of salt. Most of us eat way too much and a
lot of it comes from packaged and convenience foods.
(Read more about
how much salt is in your food.)

Exercise is also a positive blood pressure lowering activity.
And did you know that some of the most powerful blood
pressure remedies are found not in the pharmacy but on
our kitchen shelves? We’ve looked at the recent scientific
research to see which natural remedies are best for
lowering blood pressure.

Top 10 Natural Remedies  for High Blood Pressure

























1. Coffee – Good or Bad for Blood Pressure?

We may feel the effects of a strong cup of coffee – an
elevated mood, more energy and increased concentration -
but does that mean our blood pressure is rising too?

Two or three cups of coffee push systolic pressure up by 3
to 14 mm Hg and diastolic pressure up by 4 to 13 mm Hg,
according to the Mayo Clinic, but the effect is brief. A 2010
study from the University of Maryland found drinking
coffee caused small to moderate increases in blood
pressure but the effect was short-lived, and regular coffee
drinking was not linked to a long-term increase in blood
pressure.

In fact, people who regularly knock back the java may
develop a tolerance to caffeine, which means their blood
pressure doesn’t move much. If you drink more than four
cups of coffee a day the effect is more dramatic, according
to a 1998 study from Duke University.

Four or five cups raised blood pressure by an average of
five points – an increase that remained throughout the day.

The link between coffee and blood pressure is far from
clear.

In a 2010 study from the University of Maryland, men not
women experienced a rise in blood pressure when drinking
a greater amount of coffee – and the result depended on
age.

Some coffee derivatives actually may be good for your
blood pressure - a 2006 study by the Health Care Products
Laboratories, Kao Corporation, Tokyo, found chlorogenic
acids in water-soluble green coffee bean extract reduced
blood pressure in rats and humans. And a 2005 study from
the University of l'Aquila in Italy says eating 100g of dark
chocolate a day for 15 days lowers blood pressure.

It may not be coffee, per se, that is the problem. Some
studies, including a 2005 review of clinical trials on coffee
from Wageningen University, The Netherlands, have linked
caffeine with high blood pressure but not coffee.

2.
Cut Your Caffeine to Lower Your Blood Pressure

While one or two cups of coffee a day are unlikely to
significantly increase your blood pressure the same can´t
be said for all caffeine-containing beverages. Energy
drinks, for example, could be sending your blood pressure
through the roof. A 2012 study from the University of
Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock compared energy
drinks to caffeine supplementation and found sipping
energy drinks increased mean 24-hour and daytime blood
pressure more than the same amount of caffeine as a
supplement.

High caffeine levels (some high-energy drinks contain up to
200mg per small serving compared to 175mg in a cup of
instant coffee) and other added, possibly blood pressure
raising, ingredients make energy drinks potentially
problematic for your blood pressure.

The Mayo Clinic recommends you limit caffeine to around
200mg a day if you have high blood pressure, and to
500mg if your blood pressure is fine. 500mg is about two 8-
ounce cups of brewed coffee.

Be careful because the caffeine content in beverages varies
wildly – even within the same coffee shop chain. According
to a University of Florida College of Medicine survey, the
strongest brewed specialty coffee contains twice as much
caffeine as the weakest. And even decaffeinated coffee
contains small amounts of caffeine.

How much caffeine is in a Diet Coke? A 12 ounce can of
Diet Coke has 45 grams of caffeine.  Regular Coke has less
caffeine, about 30 to 35 per 12 ounce can.  Pepsi has less
caffeine, according to the official Pepsi cola website. It
claims that Pepsi and Diet Pepsi have about 25 grams of
caffeine for 8 fluid ounces, which works out to about 37
grams for a 12 ounce, close to the 45 grams of caffeine for
Coca-cola.

How much caffeine is in Sprite? Zero, Sprite is caffeine-
free, as are 7-Up, A&W Root Beer and most clear colored-
drinks. However, Mountain Dew is surprisingly loaded with
caffeine, about 46 to 55 grams per 12 ounce serving.

3.  
Drink Beet Juice and Hibiscus Tea to Lower Your Blood
Pressure

If you’re nervous about the link between caffeine and high
blood pressure, or you’re at risk of exceeding the
recommended 500mg a day, try a different blood pressure-
busting beverage. Two glasses of beet juice a day (500ml
total) can lower blood pressure by 10 points within three
hours, according to a 2008 study from the London School
of Medicine, UK. And hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure by
11.2 percent, according to a 1999 study from the Shaheed
Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services,
Iran. (Read more about how
beet juice lowers blood
pressure--but there's a big catch to the story.)

4.
Walking Lowers Your Blood Pressure

The key to lowering high blood pressure could be at your
feet, according to experts.

Walking for moderate amounts each day lowers blood
pressure, according to a study from the Korea Institute of
Sport Science in Seoul.

The study showed that just 40 minutes per day of brisk
walking (at about 3 to 4 miles an hour) lowered systolic
blood pressure by 5 points and diastolic blood pressure by
2 points.

And a 2007 study from the University of Ulster at
Jordanstown, Newtownabbey Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
found that regular brisk walking reduced resting diastolic
blood pressure. Moreover, a 2005 study from Queen's
University, Belfast, Ireland showed 30 minutes of brisk
walking, five days a week resulted in significant decreases
in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Walking also helps
you lose weight, which is a risk factor for high blood
pressure and cardiovascular problems.

5.
Squeezing a Tennis Ball Lowers Blood Pressure

Walking isn’t the only exercise shown to have a positive
effect on blood pressure. Hand exercises also help you fight
the pressure. Squeezing a hand-held device or even a
simple tennis ball results in a dip in systolic resting blood
pressure in just a few weeks, according to a 2007 review
from Harvard University.

The National Institute of Aging shows you how – squeeze a
tennis ball or other small rubber ball firmly for at least five
seconds (build up to this length of time if you need to).
Relax your grip for a few moments. Then repeat the
squeeze and the rest 10 times using the same hand.
Change hands and do the same thing 10 times. Complete
two sets per hand. You can do these exercises almost
anywhere and certainly while you’re watching TV, chatting
on the phone or reading the newspaper.

6.
Stevia for Lower Blood Pressure?

Stevia is growing in popularity in the United States as a
sweetener because it is said to be up to 300 times sweeter
than sugar while containing no calories. Stevia could also
help to lower your blood pressure.

A dose of 250mg, three times daily, reduced blood pressure
by around 10 percent according to a 2000 study from the
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Taipei Medical College
and affiliated Taipei Wan Fang Hospital, Taiwan. A 2003
study from Taipei Medical University, Taiwan on 174 people
taking 500mg of Stevia a day showed a reduction in blood
pressure of six to seven percent.

7.
Eat Garlic to Beat High Blood Pressure

Garlic is a popular choice as part of a heart-healthy diet
because it helps widen blood vessels and encourages
healthy circulation, a must for healthy blood pressure. The
equivalent to two cloves of fresh garlic causes blood
vessels to relax up to 72 percent more strongly than a
placebo, according to a 2007 study from the University of
Alabama, Birmingham. In this way, garlic could be a store
cupboard staple for reducing blood pressure. (Read more
about the connection between
garlic and your blood
pressure.)

8.
Boost Your Intake of Oat Bran to Lower Blood Pressure

Fiber is reportedly great for lowering your blood pressure
as well as preventing obesity and heart problems. And oat
bran is a particularly powerful blood pressure-buster.

How important is eating oats if you have blood pressure
problems? Very.

According to a 2002 study from the University of Minnesota
Medical School, Minneapolis whole grain oat cereals
significantly reduced the need for blood pressure lowering
medication in patients who suffered high blood pressure –
73 percent of participants who consumed oats versus 42
percent in the control group were able to stop or reduce
their medication by half.

9.
Magnesium and Blood Pressure

Eat a diet high in magnesium and you could lower your
blood pressure. This is according to a 2006 study from
Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Boston.

Women whose diets contained the
highest levels of
magnesium were the
least likely to suffer from high blood
pressure, and vice versa, according to the 10-year study.
And a 1994 study by the Erasmus University Medical
School, Rotterdam showed magnesium supplements
lowered blood pressure in subjects with mild to moderate
hypertension.

Magnesium is found in nuts and seeds like sunflowers
seeds, almonds and cashews; halibut and shrimp; spinach,
avocado and dried fruits; and soybeans, lentils, whole
grains, and oatmeal. (Here is a list of
foods rich in
magnesium.)

10.
Does Celery Lower Your Blood Pressure?

Could the humble vegetable celery be as good as
medication at reducing blood pressure? According to a
1992 study by the University Of Chicago Medical Center a
small amount of celery extract, the equivalent to eating four
celery stalks, lowered blood pressure in rats by 12 to 14
percent and lowered cholesterol by around 7 percent.

Apparently an active chemical in celery helps relax the
muscles that line your blood vessels and also reduces the
levels of stress hormones in the blood, which can cause
vessels to constrict and raise blood pressure. (Read more
about
celery and blood pressure.)

[Update:

11.
Get Some Sun to Lower High Blood Pressure?

There is an intriguing connection between the amount of
Vitamin D in your blood stream (serum Vitamin D) and your
blood pressure.

A 2008 study from Emory University School of Medicine
measured the serum Vitamin D levels of 293 Caucasian
participants and Black participants.

They found that the white participants who had normal
Vitamin D levels also were likely to have normal systolic
blood pressure levels. But, those participants who were
either "deficient" or who had "insufficient" Vitamin D levels
had higher systolic blood pressure numbers.


The results are intriguing because, as many of you may
know, African Americans have higher blood pressure than
whites, especially after age 50. It is also true that people
with darker skin absorb Vitamin D from the sun. Hence, in
the study, only about 8% of the Black participants had
healthy Vitamin D levels. For this reason, the researchers
did not have a large enough sample of  Black participants
with normal Vitamin D levels to even draw a conclusion as
to the role that Vitamin D might play in influencing high
blood pressure among Blacks.

But as for those of you who are white, the findings are
clear enough to encourage you to get out and get some
sun to help your body maintain normal systolic blood
pressure.]



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What the Color of Your Bowels Mean

Does Losing Sleep Cause High Blood Pressure?

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Simply squeezing a tennis ball can
lower blood pressure.