Natural ways to keep blood pressure in check

While New Zealand champions an active outdoor lifestyle, the reality is that more than one million adults suffer from systolic blood pressures above 115 mmHg. Directly linked to heart disease and stroke, hypertension is not something you want on your plate. Whether you’re taking a preventative approach or want to become less reliant on medication, here are 10 all-natural ways to reduce blood pressure and work towards a healthier you. And the good news is they’re all surprisingly easy.

Inhale, exhale

Stress is directly linked to an increase in renin, a kidney enzyme that’s shown to heighten blood pressure. Slow breathing practices like yoga, tai chi and meditation are a great way to release tension and tap into your inner Zen.

Load up on potatoes

Potassium-rich foods play a pivotal role in lowering blood pressure, with experts suggesting you should aim for around 2000 to 4000 mg of potassium a day. This makes potatoes a bit of a superfood, especially if you opt for sweet varieties. You can also get potassium from other sources, including tomatoes, bananas, kidney beans and peas. Plus rockmelon and honeydew melon, as well dried fruits such as prunes and raisins.

Get smart about salt

Cutting your salt intake is one of the easiest yet most effective ways to naturally lower blood pressure. Health experts suggest limiting your intake to around 1500 mg a day, which means learning how to read food packaging labels is a must. You can also opt for fresh meals instead of packaged and processed, which makes it much easier to control your salt intake. Hello homemade kale chips!

Treat yourself to dark chocolate

It’s official, dark chocolate is packed full of flavanols that increase the elasticity of blood vessels and minimise the risk of high blood pressure. In fact, one study even suggests that 18% of hypertension patients were able to decrease blood pressure simply by nibbling on dark chocolate once a day. Look for blocks that contain at least 70% cocoa, the darker the better.

Don’t cut out booze

Yes, we said it. While heavy drinking spells bad news for blood pressure, an occasional glass of wine, beer or spirits can actually minimise the symptoms of hypertension. As a result, some doctors maintain that moderate drinking can help to lower the risk of heart disease. If you’re looking for an excuse to reach for that glass of Shiraz, this is it.

Consider coenzyme Q10

A naturally occurring substance that actively dilates blood vessels, coenzyme Q10 can help to reduce blood pressure by up to 17 mmHg over 10 mmHg. Of course, it’s always best to chat to your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.

Sip on hibiscus tea

Missing your morning coffee? Why not sip on hibiscus tea? Thanks to a high phytochemical count the flower can help to reduce high blood pressure without the need for medication. Check your local health food store, specialty tea retailer or stock up online.

Embrace decaf coffee and tea

Some studies indicate that caffeine can heighten blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and intensifying the effects of stress. For this reason, some experts suggest cutting caffeine out of your diet. The good news is there are so many amazing decaf coffee and tea options out there that you won’t feel like you’re missing out on a thing.

Make time for tunes

Music can be an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it comes to lowering blood pressure. According to some researchers listening to soothing classical music or Indian chanting can lower average systolic readings by up to 4.4 points.

Learn to love powerwalking

Walking is great, but powerwalking really amps up your exercise regime to the next level. Studies have shown that after “fitness walks” patients suffering from high blood pressure were able to significantly reduce hypertension levels. In a nutshell it helps the heart to maximise oxygen efficiency which in turn means it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood to the veins.

Do you suffer from hypertension, or have any blood pressure secrets you’d like to share?