By Dr. Cori Burke

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a serious health problem in the United States. Hypertension is sometimes referred to as the silent killer, because in most cases it produces no symptoms. Without regular blood pressure checks, hypertension can go unnoticed, and untreated, for years. When blood pressure is chronically high, it causes damage to blood vessels that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Here are 5 easy ways that you can naturally lower your blood pressure:

1) Increase Exercise – Aim for 30 minutes, 5 times a week.

Tips for a successful work out:

  • Warm up first – Before beginning a work out, warm up your joints and muscles with circular movements, jumping jacks, or a slow jog.
  • Start slow- Studies show that short bursts of high intensity exercise (like interval training) are more effective at promoting endurance than prolonged periods of medium intensity exercise. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to exercise, you can still have an effective work out. The main idea is to minimize inactivity and increase movement. Even just standing up and walking around for a few minutes every hour will help.
  • Talk with your doctor – If you are starting an exercise program for the first time, or if you have heart disease, asthma, COPD, or other serious health issues, consult your doctor before increasing your activity levels.
  • Know your target heart rate – For most people the target heart rate is 50-85% of their calculated maximal heart rate. The maximal heart rate is calculated from the formula: (220-Your Age). It is helpful to use a heart rate monitor during exercise to see if you are in your optimal and safe target heart rate range.

2) Reduce your Sodium intake – The American Heart Association  recommends consuming less than 1,500mg of sodium per day.  Eating food without added salt can take some getting used to, but adaptation happens quickly and soon you won’t miss it. Avoiding processed foods will go a long way in limiting your sodium intake, as these foods tend to have lots of salt added.

3) Lose Weight – A healthy body weight may be the most important factor in controlling your blood pressure. A general rule is that every 1-2 pounds of weight loss will lower your blood pressure by 1-2 points.

4) Stop Smoking – Tobacco is a vasoconstrictor, which increases the pressure in blood vessels. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor. There are many therapies that can be helpful, including acupuncture.

5) Include Healthy Foods – These foods can make big improvements to your blood pressure:

  • Flax seeds: Flax seeds have lots of fiber, phytosterols, and omega-3 fatty acids that help protect the heart. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons a day of freshly ground flax seeds. Flax can be sprinkled on salads or fresh fruit, or added to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt. For every tablespoon of flax seeds you eat, make sure to drink an extra 8 ounces of water or you can sometimes get constipated.
  • Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate juice seems to be a natural inhibitor of Angiotension Converting Enzyme, similar to first line blood pressure medications like Lisinopril. Drinking ¼ cup a day of pure, unsweetened juice may help naturally lower blood pressure in less than 2 weeks.
  • Celery: Celery is a gentle diuretic and eating at least two large stalks every day can help bring down high blood pressure.
  • Garlic: Research shows that garlic is a safe and effective way to help lower blood pressure. Garlic can be eaten raw, taken in supplements, or lightly sautéed and added to foods.
  • Beets: Beets have naturally occurring nitrate, a precursor for nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure through vasodilator effects. Try to eat at least 3 raw or steamed beets each week. Shred raw beets and add them to salads for some extra color and flavor.
  • Green Tea: Green tea is full of heart-protective flavonoids that have antioxidant and vasodilator effects. Consider drinking 1 to 2 cups of green tea a day instead of coffee, which can raise your blood pressure.

6) Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels – Having low vitamin D levels  can increase your risk of having high blood pressure. Get your Vitamin D levels checked at least once a year to make sure they are in a optimal range.

7) Avoid NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs  like Ibuprofen and Aleve can raise your blood pressure and should not be taken on a regular basis. They can also cause dangerous gastrointestinal bleeding.  If you suffer from chronic pain, talk to your doctor about natural alternatives to NSAIDs that don’t carry these serious risks.