Look After Your Heart! 7 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
by Catherine Morris | February 16, 2021, updated 3 months ago
Hearts are everywhere this month thanks to Valentine's Day—gaudy displays in the stores, cutesy cards, love songs on the radio—but how often do we pay attention to our actual hearts, that major organ that keeps us alive by pumping blood around our bodies.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a growing problem among North Americans, and it's making us weaker, sicker and more prone to heart disease and stroke.
Hypertension occurs when your blood moves through your arteries too forcefully, putting pressure on the artery walls. If it's too high for too long, it can damage the arteries and eventually lead to more serious cardiac complications.
Thankfully, blood pressure is easy to check and monitor. If you've been diagnosed as medium or high risk, don't panic. There are ways to keep your blood pressure in check and lower that number before levels get dangerously high.
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference and you might want to consider the below tips—all of which are easy to implement and have benefits beyond reducing your risk of hypertension. Your health is more than just one symptom and getting body and mind in balance leads to better heart health over the long-term.
1. Stretch out to Reduce Hypertension
In a recent study from the University of Saskatchewan, hypertensive patients performed a whole-body stretching routine for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. After eight weeks, their blood pressure was much lower than their numbers before the trial began.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Phil Chilibeck explains—
"When you stretch your muscles, you're also stretching all the blood vessels that feed into the muscle, including all the arteries. If you reduce the stiffness in your arteries, there's less resistance to blood flow.”
The beauty of this natural remedy for hypertension is that it requires very little time commitment and can be integrated into even the busiest of schedules. Simply dive into a stretch while brushing your teeth, watching TV, or chatting on the phone. If you're interested in building a more dedicated stretching programme, enlist the support of a physiotherapist or fitness trainer.
2. Tune In
Music lowers both systolic (measured when your heart contracts) and diastolic (when the heart is at rest) blood pressure, as well as the heart rate so if hypertension is a worry, it might be a good idea to switch on the radio more often or load up your iPod and listen while doing chores, cooking, or working.
For an even more protective effect, cultivate a love of the classics. In one German-based trial, listening to Mozart and Strauss for 25 minutes lowered the listener's blood pressure and reduced their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The other participants, who listened to ABBA, saw similar but not as pronounced, results—so it might be best to go for Ode To Joy, rather than Dancing Queen.
3. Get Spicy
In terms of lowering blood pressure, there are several spicy superstars worth slipping into your diet.
Garlic – this pungent bulb may give you stinky breath, but your heart loves it thanks to its active component, allium. Allium not only lowers blood pressure among hypertensive patients, it also reduces arterial stiffness so get generous with garlic in your meals and your blood vessels will thank you!
Ginger – ginger tea, ginger root, ginger bread… there's lots of ways to enjoy this heart-healthy root. More commonly known as a digestive aid, there's also strong scientific support for its use in treating hypertension. Even if you're not in a high risk category, you might also consider ginger to keep your blood pressure in check and ward off future problems, according to one study which tested its blood lowering effects in healthy adults.
Cardamon – used primarily in Indian and Asian cuisine, cardamon doesn't just make for a delicious curry, it's also effective at lowering blood pressure in patients with stage 1 hypertension, making it a natural medicine must-have for anyone with cardiac difficulties.
Cinnamon – diabetic and prediabetic patients with high blood pressure managed to lower their levels just by supplementing with cinnamon, so it's definitely one to consider when building your natural medicine toolkit. Plus, it tastes delicious sprinkled on your favourite latte.
4. Go For a Stroll
Studies show that strolling can ease stress, even the physical kind. In one trial, sedentary adults who made walking a part of their regular routine saw their blood pressure drop to healthy levels within six months.
If you're struggling with the idea of walking because of injury or other issues, don't overthink it. We're not talking hikes or mile-long marathons, start small by parking your car just a little further away when getting groceries, or pacing while on the phone. After a while, movement should come naturally and feel like less of a chore.
5. Explore the Great Outdoors
Here at Which Doctor we rave about the benefits of nature therapy, a lot. Not just because we love the great outdoors, but because there's a huge body of research around how beneficial it is for mental and physical health.
People who spend long periods of time outdoors are less likely to have high blood pressure, in fact researchers estimate that simply by encouraging people to visit outdoor parks and other green spaces for 30 minutes or more each week could cut cases of hypertension by 9 percent.
6. Add a Little 'Om'
Mother nature is a powerful healer, but there are still ways to reduce your stress (and therefore lower your blood pressure) indoors… and all you'll need is a comfortable place to sit, and some quiet.
Meditation is one of the oldest healing techniques out there, practised by billions of people all over the world to promote holistic wellbeing. It's well-known to safeguard mental health, but it's also effective at preventing and treating hypertension, according to several studies.
It might feel strange at first—hardly anyone 'gets' meditation right away —but persevere and it should get easier with time. If you're really struggling, consider reaching out to a meditation coach for some pointers.
7. Sip Herbal Tea
If you're trying to protect your heart health, you've likely given up or reduced your caffeine. Swapping out your daily cuppa for a soothing herbal tea can also help you keep your blood pressure under control, and we know exactly which herbs to pick.
Holy basil – also known as tulsi, this is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine thanks to its high antioxidant content, and studies suggest it can help treat high blood pressure.
Green tea – okay, so green tea has some caffeine but it also has polyphenols, and that's good news for your arteries as this type of tea significantly reduces worrisome blood pressure, bringing it back to healthy numbers.
Nettle – also known as Urtica dioica, nettle leaf makes a tea that tastes better than it sounds and can also help prevent and treat hypertension.
If you're looking to add herbs to your health routine, an herbalist can help you find out more. Be wary of possible interactions if you're on any medications and, if in doubt, always consult your primary caregiver before use.
Interested in any of the above alternative therapies? Connect with our Which Doctor practitioners to find out how they can help you. Our network hosts nutritionists, fitness consultants, meditation coaches, herbalists and more—become a member today and begin your wellness journey.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.