Healthy blood pressure is a sign of a healthy heart—it means you
have lowered risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney issues. Good blood
pressure, on a physical level, means that your blood vessels are flexing
appropriately to adapt to your blood flow. High blood pressure means your
vessels are not contracting or expanding enough to accommodate your blood
flow, increasing the odds of a clot causing major issues.
Here at Saint Francis Healthcare, our goal is to help our patients and
our community enjoy their lives with peace of mind—helping them
lower their blood pressure through lifestyle changes is one of the many
ways we want to keep our community healthy and happy. Below, we’ve
listed 5 things almost anyone can do to help lower their blood pressure
#1: Use Spices (Instead of Salt) to Season Your Food
For thousands of years, salt was so precious that many regions used it
as currency. Salt not only preserved food, but could enhance its taste—which
is why it became a staple in food seasoning. Hundreds of years later,
we still use salt in virtually all of our food, but we’ve forgotten
the reason why we use it at all.
The truth is, we get plenty of salt in our diet, at least much more than
our ancestors did. Most chips, soups, and other packaged and processed
food come packed with salt—despite the fact that our daily salt
intake should be little more than half a teaspoon (or 1,500 milligrams),
according to National Institutes of Health nutritional researcher Eva
Cultures around the world use spices to flavor their food more often than
they use salt, and there’s no reason our chefs at home can’t
do the same. Salt is often our go-to flavor enhancer when a dish is underwhelming,
but with a little experience and research, you could use any number of
spices to add flavor to your food without increasing your salt intake.
Great spices to integrate into your cooking include:
Fennel seeds (for a fragrant, sweet, licorice-esque flavor)
Sumac (for a lemony, citrus spice flavor)
Smoked paprika (depth, warmth, smoky sweet flavor)
Cumin (adds a level of fragrance without heat)
Crushed red pepper (mild heat and a metabolic boost!)
#2: Go for a 30-Minute Walk
Note: Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine,
especially if you have a history of heart problems.
Any moderate physical activity trains your body to process oxygen more
efficiently—this means your heart works less hard to pump blood,
which means your blood pressure will naturally go down. Health experts
often recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity a week,
or about 30 minutes a day during the workweek.
“Moderate activity” means you don’t have to train for
a marathon to benefit from exercise. Moderate activity is often any exercise
intensity that raises your heartrate without leaving you breathless. That’s
why walking quickly for 30 minutes is genuinely beneficial—it gets
your whole body moving without causing issues for your joints or requiring
a high level of fitness.
Get your shoes on, pick a scenic route, and walk for just 15 minutes and back!
#3: Eat Broccoli
One of the best ways to lower your blood pressure is to consume potassium
from natural food sources. Your kidneys filter your blood by drawing extra
fluid from the bloodstream into the channel that leads to the bladder.
The ability to draw fluid through your cell walls is from a balance between
your sodium and potassium blood levels.
Because you likely consume far more salt than you realize, you’ll
want to eat as much potassium as you can find—and guess what? Broccoli has
14% of your daily recommended amount of potassium. It’s one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables around, and you can
put it in nearly any dinner dish—steam it, roast it, stir fry it,
or chop it raw into salads. Besides potassium, it contains fiber, glucosinolate,
and high amounts of vitamin D.
#4: Go Vegetarian Today, & Maybe Tomorrow Too!
This is similar to the previous tip, but applied more to dining out than
cooking. If you’re eating out on a frequent basis, consider ordering
one of the vegetarian dishes a couple meals a week. One study published in
JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating vegetarian—thanks to low sodium and high potassium
levels—has as much of an impact on your blood pressure as losing 10 pounds.
Potassium-rich foods include:
- White beans (16% daily recommended potassium)
- Swiss chard (16% daily recommended potassium)
- Apricots (18%)
- Salmon—for pescatarians (18%)
- Bananas (10%)
Pick a couple days of the week to eat vegetarian, or to limit your protein
to fish. Spending a few days a week eating high-potassium, low-sodium
food can lower your blood pressure by up to 7 points over time—a
huge change for such a simple change in diet!
#5: Set a Goal to Lose 10% of Your Weight
Okay, so this “simple” tip isn’t nearly as easy as the
other tips we’ve provided, but a blood pressure article wouldn’t
be complete without mentioning how weight affects blood pressure. Carrying
extra weight, especially around the gut or waistline, can stress your
heart far more than sodium or lack of activity might.
However, weight loss doesn’t have to be dramatic to be effective.
Just losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can lower your blood pressure by
at least 5 points alone—combined with the healthy eating and physical activity necessary
to lose weight, your blood pressure can drop to healthy, normal levels
after only a few pounds.
The good news is this: by doing the first 4 of the tips on this list consistently,
you’ll likely reach the goal of your 5th tip naturally! There is
plenty of overlap between activities that are healthy for your heart and
likely to create weight loss. Start slowly, and begin implementing these
tips into your lifestyle one at a time—just make sure you start today!