- The 6 best exercises to control high blood pressure
- 1. Ten minutes of brisk or moderate walking three times a day.
- 2. Thirty minutes a day of biking or stationary cycling, or three 10-minute blocks of cycling.
- 3. Hiking.
- 4. Desk treadmilling or pedal pushing.
- 5. Weight training.
- 6. Swimming.
- Here’s How Walking Lowers Your Blood Pressure
- It gets your blood pumping
- It lowers your stress levels
- It helps maintain a healthy weight
- It can also reduce stroke risk
- What kinds?
- 17 Effective Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
- 1. Increase activity and exercise more
- 2. Lose weight if you’re overweight
- 3. Cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates
- 4. Eat more potassium and less sodium
- 5. Eat less processed food
- 6. Stop smoking
- 7. Reduce excess stress
- 8. Try meditation or yoga
- 9. Eat some dark chocolate
- 10. Try these medicinal herbs
- 11. Make sure to get good, restful sleep
- 12. Eat garlic or take garlic extract supplements
- 13. Eat healthy high-protein foods
- 14. Take these BP-lowering supplements
- 15. Drink less alcohol
- 16. Consider cutting back on caffeine
- 17. Take prescription medication
- The One Step That Helps Lower Your Blood Pressure Without Medication
- “Just 3 days…”
- Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa
- Meal Plan
- Weekend Retreat
The 6 best exercises to control high blood pressure
Need to drop your blood pressure by up to 20 points? One of the best ways to accomplish this feat is by returning to your ideal body weight. You can calculate it by determining your body mass index.
To help reach your weight goal, and to help lower your blood pressure in the meantime, consider these six exercises/activities, says Wesley Tyree, MD, a cardiologist and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff:
1. Ten minutes of brisk or moderate walking three times a day.
Exercise lowers blood pressure by reducing blood vessel stiffness so blood can flow more easily. The effects of exercise are most noticeable during and immediately after a workout. Lowered blood pressure can be most significant right after you work out.
So, health professionals theorize, the ideal way to combat high blood pressure might be to break up your workout into several sessions throughout the day. In fact, one study found that three 10-minute walks a day more effectively prevented future blood pressure spikes than one 30-minute trek per day.
2. Thirty minutes a day of biking or stationary cycling, or three 10-minute blocks of cycling.
The same reasoning applies here as it does for walking.
The muscle power needed to climb a road on an incline, a hill or a mountain can help you achieve a greater level of fitness. Physical activity such as hiking can lower blood pressure up to 10 points.
4. Desk treadmilling or pedal pushing.
Blood pressure readings were even more optimal in a study when participants ambled along at a slow 1-mile-per-hour pace at desk-based treadmills for at least 10 minutes every hour, or pedaled stationary bikes under a desk for at least 10 minutes every hour.
5. Weight training.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, weight training or lifting can reduce blood pressure. Strength training actually raises blood pressure levels temporarily, but can help overall fitness, which will improve blood pressure levels as well.
This form of exercise can be beneficial in controlling blood pressure in adults 60 and older, another study found. Over a period of 12 weeks, swimmer-participants gradually worked their way up to 45 minutes of continuous swimming at a time. By the end of the study, the swimmers had reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of nine points.
“The benefits of exercise are not realized if the exercise is not sustained,” Dr. Tyree said, “so the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is true. You can lose gains after stopping exercise for two weeks. Moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week or vigorous exercise for 75 minutes per week is the standard recommendation.”
If you’re considering new physical activity, consult your primary care physician. If you’re looking for a primary care physician, call 623-580-5800.
By New Scientist staff and Press Association
A morning walk can help lower blood pressure
Just 30 minutes of exercise every morning may be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure for the rest of the day. A study found that a short burst of treadmill walking each morning had long-lasting effects, and there were further benefits from additional short walks later in the day.
In experiments, 35 women and 32 men aged between 55 and 80 followed three different daily plans, in a random order, with at least six days between each one.
The first plan consisted of uninterrupted sitting for 8 hours, while the second consisted of 1 hour of sitting before 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting down. The final plan was 1 hour of sitting before 30 minutes of treadmill walking, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting, which was interrupted every 30 minutes with 3 minutes of walking at a light intensity.
The study was conducted in a laboratory to standardise the results, and men and women ate the same meals the evening before the study and during the day.
Read more: 8 ways to keep your brain young and stave off mental decline
Michael Wheeler at the University of Western Australia in Perth and his colleagues found that blood pressure was lower in men and women who took part in the exercise plans, compared with when they didn’t exercise.
The effect was especially seen with systolic blood pressure, which measures pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats and is a stronger predictor of heart problems such as heart attacks than diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart rests between beats.
Women also saw extra benefits if they added in the short 3-minute walks throughout the day, but the effect was smaller for men.
The team doesn’t know why there was a gender difference, but thinks it may due to varying adrenaline responses to exercise and the fact that all women in the study were post-menopausal and therefore at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
“For both men and women, the magnitude of reduction in average systolic blood pressure following exercise and breaks in sitting approached what might be expected from anti-hypertensive medication in this population to reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke,” says Wheeler.
The study supports a huge body of evidence that shows regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure and help reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes, says Chris Allen at the British Heart Foundation. “It can also give both your body and mind a boost, which is why 30 minutes of activity in the morning is a great way to set yourself up for the day,” he says.
Journal reference: Hypertension, DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.12373
More on these topics:
Here’s How Walking Lowers Your Blood Pressure
Doctors advise that daily exercise plays a major impact in your overall health. The American Heart Association suggests you get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise. One great way to sneak in some moderate exercise is to take a daily walk. 25 minutes of walking each day will help you pass that 150-minute suggestion and keep your heart healthy. But how does walking each day make such an impact on heart health?
Walking can lower your blood pressure. | M-imagephotography/iStock/Getty Images
It gets your blood pumping
The most obvious answer is that walking gets your blood pumping. To have the biggest impact, you need to walk at a brisk pace for a decent amount of time. Anywhere from 3.0 to 4.5 miles per hour is a good walking pace. This means it should take you anywhere between 13 and 20 minutes to complete one mile. Spend at least 25 minutes walking to give your heart the optimal workout. Your heart is a muscle, too, so the more you work it, the better its shape. Exercising your heart will lower your blood pressure in time.
It lowers your stress levels
In addition to being physically impactful, walking can also lower your stress levels. When you stress, your body releases hormones that temporarily cause an increase in blood pressure. But if you’re stressing all the time, that blood pressure gets raised more frequently. Although researchers are still trying to confirm whether stress directly leads to long-term hypertension, they don’t want people taking any chances. It’s important to lower those stress levels to avoid those sudden spikes in blood pressure. Getting fresh air during a morning walk or walking with a friend are both great ways to relieve that stress and keep your blood pressure levels consistent.
In addition to improving stress levels, it can also reduce anxiety, which impacts the heart similarly to stress. Anxiety also causes temporary blood pressure spikes, since your heart beats faster and the blood vessels narrow. Over time, those temporary spikes in blood pressure may cause heart damage. Taking a walk to reduce anxiety symptoms will also help your blood pressure in the long run.
It helps maintain a healthy weight
Walking reduces your likelihood of becoming obese. Getting daily exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, which is extremely important for good cardiovascular health. Obesity and hypertension often go hand in hand, since obesity has a direct impact on heart health. Those who are obese have a greater risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which typically come with hypertension as well.
It can also reduce stroke risk
Walking helps lower blood pressure, but it also improves overall heart health. Studies have shown that walking can reduce one’s stroke risk and may even reduce their risk of death by up to 39%, according to NBC. Others studies have shown reduced blood pressure in frequent walkers as well as reduced overall weight and cholesterol levels. If you’re looking for a way to get those 150 minutes of exercise while also improving your mental health, walking is one of the best things you can do.
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Different kinds of exercise and activity have different effects on your body. If you have high blood pressure, you should try to focus on activities that will help your heart and blood vessels. Aerobic activity is the type that helps your heart the most.
Aerobic activities are repetitive and rhythmic movements (exercises), and they use the large muscle groups of your body, such as those in your legs, shoulders and arms. Walking, jogging, swimming, dancing and digging are all aerobic activities.
Other forms of activity are less helpful. For example, you should not do any exercise that is very intensive for short periods of time, such as sprinting or weightlifting. These kinds of activities will quickly raise your blood pressure, and put unwanted strain on your heart and blood vessels.
Activities such as scuba diving or parachuting can be dangerous if your blood pressure is not under control. You will need a medical certificate from your doctor to start or continue doing them.
The table below gives some ideas of exercises and activities that you can do and others you should avoid:
17 Effective Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the “silent killer” for good reason. It often has no symptoms, but is a major risk for heart disease and stroke. And these diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States (1).
About one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure (2).
Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, which is abbreviated as mm Hg. There are two numbers involved in the measurement:
- Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats, when your heart is resting.
Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal. Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. This means that you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure (3).
The good news about elevated blood pressure is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk — without requiring medications.
Here are 17 effective ways to lower your blood pressure levels:
1. Increase activity and exercise more
In a 2013 study, sedentary older adults who participated in aerobic exercise training lowered their blood pressure by an average of 3.9 percent systolic and 4.5 percent diastolic (4). These results are as good as some blood pressure medications.
As you regularly increase your heart and breathing rates, over time your heart gets stronger and pumps with less effort. This puts less pressure on your arteries and lowers your blood pressure.
How much activity should you strive for? A 2013 report by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for 40-minute sessions, three to four times per week (5).
If finding 40 minutes at a time is a challenge, there may still be benefits when the time is divided into three or four 10- to 15-minute segments throughout the day (6).
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) makes similar recommendations (7).
But you don’t have to run marathons. Increasing your activity level can be as simple as:
- using the stairs
- walking instead of driving
- doing household chores
- going for a bike ride
- playing a team sport
Just do it regularly and work up to at least half an hour per day of moderate activity.
One example of moderate activity that can have big results is tai chi. A 2017 review on the effects of tai chi and high blood pressure shows an overall average of a 15.6 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 10.7 mm Hg drop in diastolic blood pressure, compared to people who didn’t exercise at all (8).
A 2014 review on exercise and lowering blood pressure found that there are many combinations of exercise that can lower blood pressure. Aerobic exercise, resistance training, high-intensity interval training, short bouts of exercise throughout the day, or walking 10,000 steps a day may all lower blood pressure (9).
Ongoing studies continue to suggest that there are still benefits to even light physical activity, especially in older adults (10).
2. Lose weight if you’re overweight
If you’re overweight, losing even 5 to 10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure. Plus, you’ll lower your risk for other medical problems.
A 2016 review of several studies reported that weight loss diets reduced blood pressure by an average of 3.2 mm Hg diastolic and 4.5 mm Hg systolic (11).
3. Cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates
Many scientific studies show that restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates can help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
A 2010 study compared a low-carb diet to a low-fat diet. The low-fat diet included a diet drug. Both diets produced weight loss, but the low-carb diet was much more effective in lowering blood pressure.
The low-carb diet lowered blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg diastolic and 5.9 mm Hg systolic. The diet of low-fat plus the diet drug lowered blood pressure by only 0.4 mm Hg diastolic and 1.5 mm Hg systolic (12).
A 2012 analysis of low-carb diets and heart disease risk found that these diets lowered blood pressure by an average of 3.10 mm Hg diastolic and 4.81 mm Hg systolic (13).
Another side effect of a low-carb, low-sugar diet is that you feel fuller longer, because you’re consuming more protein and fat.
4. Eat more potassium and less sodium
Increasing your potassium intake and cutting back on salt can also lower your blood pressure (14).
Potassium is a double winner: It lessens the effects of salt in your system, and also eases tension in your blood vessels. However, diets rich in potassium may be harmful to individuals with kidney disease, so talk to your doctor before increasing your potassium intake.
It’s easy to eat more potassium — so many foods are naturally high in potassium. Here are a few:
- low-fat dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt
- fruits, such as bananas, apricots, avocados, and oranges
- vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, greens, and spinach
Note that individuals respond to salt differently. Some people are salt-sensitive, meaning that a higher salt intake increases their blood pressure. Others are salt-insensitive. They can have a high salt intake and excrete it in their urine without raising their blood pressure (15).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends reducing salt intake using the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet (16). The DASH diet emphasizes:
- low-sodium foods
- fruits and vegetables
- low-fat dairy
- whole grains
- fewer sweets and red meats
5. Eat less processed food
Most of the extra salt in your diet comes from processed foods and foods from restaurants, not your salt shaker at home (17). Popular high-salt items include deli meats, canned soup, pizza, chips, and other processed snacks.
Foods labeled “low-fat” are usually high in salt and sugar to compensate for the loss of fat. Fat is what gives food taste and makes you feel full.
Cutting down on — or even better, cutting out — processed food will help you eat less salt, less sugar, and fewer refined carbohydrates. All of this can result in lower blood pressure.
Make it a practice to check labels. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a sodium listing of 5 percent or less on a food label is considered low, while 20 percent or more is considered high (17).
6. Stop smoking
Stopping smoking is good for your all-around health. Smoking causes an immediate but temporary increase in your blood pressure and an increase in your heart rate (18).
In the long term, the chemicals in tobacco can increase your blood pressure by damaging your blood vessel walls, causing inflammation, and narrowing your arteries. The hardened arteries cause higher blood pressure.
The chemicals in tobacco can affect your blood vessels even if you’re around secondhand smoke. A study showed that children around secondhand smoke in the home had higher blood pressure than those from nonsmoking homes (19).
7. Reduce excess stress
We live in stressful times. Workplace and family demands, national and international politics — they all contribute to stress. Finding ways to reduce your own stress is important for your health and your blood pressure.
There are lots of different ways to successfully relieve stress, so find what works for you. Practice deep breathing, take a walk, read a book, or watch a comedy.
Listening to music daily has also been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure (20). A recent 20-year study showed that regular sauna use reduced death from heart-related events (21). And one small study has shown that acupuncture can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (22).
8. Try meditation or yoga
Mindfulness and meditation, including transcendental meditation, have long been used — and studied — as methods to reduce stress. A 2012 study notes that one university program in Massachusetts has had more than 19,000 people participate in a meditation and mindfulness program to reduce stress (23).
Yoga, which commonly involves breathing control, posture, and meditation techniques, can also be effective in reducing stress and blood pressure.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didn’t exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didn’t include all three of these elements (24).
9. Eat some dark chocolate
Yes, chocolate lovers: Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure.
But the dark chocolate should be 60 to 70 percent cacao. A review of studies on dark chocolate has found that eating one to two squares of dark chocolate per day may help lower the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. The flavonoids help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels (25).
A 2010 study of 14,310 people found that individuals without hypertension who ate more dark chocolate had lower blood pressure overall than those who ate less dark chocolate (26).
10. Try these medicinal herbs
Herbal medicines have long been used in many cultures to treat a variety of ailments.
Some herbs have even been shown to possibly lower blood pressure. Although, more research is needed to identify the doses and components in the herbs that are most useful (27).
Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal supplements. They may interfere with your prescription medications.
Here’s a partial list of plants and herbs that are used by cultures throughout the world to lower blood pressure:
- black bean (Castanospermum australe)
- cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla)
- celery juice (Apium graveolens)
- Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida)
- ginger root
- giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa)
- Indian plantago (blond psyllium)
- maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster)
- river lily (Crinum glaucum)
- roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
- sesame oil (Sesamum indicum)
- tomato extract (Lycopersicon esculentum)
- tea (Camellia sinensis), especially green tea and oolong tea
- umbrella tree bark (Musanga cecropioides)
11. Make sure to get good, restful sleep
Your blood pressure typically dips down when you’re sleeping. If you don’t sleep well, it can affect your blood pressure. People who experience sleep deprivation, especially those who are middle-aged, have an increased risk of high blood pressure (28).
For some people, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy. There are many ways to help you get restful sleep. Try setting a regular sleep schedule, spend time relaxing at night, exercise during the day, avoid daytime naps, and make your bedroom comfortable (29).
The national Sleep Heart Health Study found that regularly sleeping less than 7 hours a night and more than 9 hours a night was associated with an increased prevalence of hypertension. Regularly sleeping less than 5 hours a night was linked to a significant risk of hypertension long term (30).
12. Eat garlic or take garlic extract supplements
Fresh garlic or garlic extract are both widely used to lower blood pressure (27).
According to one clinical study, a time-release garlic extract preparation may have a greater effect on blood pressure than regular garlic powder tablets (31).
One 2012 review noted a study of 87 people with high blood pressure that found a diastolic reduction of 6 mm Hg and a systolic reduction of 12 mm Hg in those who consumed garlic, compared to people without any treatment (32).
13. Eat healthy high-protein foods
A long-term study concluded in 2014 found that people who ate more protein had a lower risk of high blood pressure. For those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day, there was a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those on a low-protein diet (33). Those who also added regular fiber into their diet saw up to a 60 percent reduction of risk.
However, a high-protein diet may not be for everyone. Those with kidney disease may need to use caution, so talk to your doctor.
It’s fairly easy to consume 100 grams of protein daily on most types of diets.
High-protein foods include:
- fish, such as salmon or canned tuna in water
- poultry, such as chicken breast
- beans and legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils
- nuts or nut butter such as peanut butter
- cheese, such as cheddar
With regards to vegetarian options, a half-cup serving of most types of beans contains 7 to 10 g of protein. Two tablespoons of peanut butter would provide 8 g (34).
14. Take these BP-lowering supplements
These supplements are readily available and have demonstrated promise for lowering blood pressure:
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
Adding omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids or fish oil to your diet can have many benefits.
A meta-analysis of fish oil and blood pressure found a mean blood pressure reduction in those with high blood pressure of 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 3.0 mm Hg diastolic (35).
This protein complex derived from milk may have several health benefits, in addition to possibly lowering blood pressure (36).
Magnesium deficiency is related to higher blood pressure. A meta-analysis found a small reduction in blood pressure with magnesium supplementation (37).
In a few small studies, the antioxidant CoQ10 lowered systolic blood pressure by 17 mm Hg and diastolic up to 10 mm Hg (38).
Oral L-citrulline is a precursor to L-arginine in the body, a building block of protein, which may lower blood pressure (39).
15. Drink less alcohol
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you’re healthy.
It’s important to drink in moderation. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for each 10 grams of alcohol consumed (40). A standard drink contains 14 grams of alcohol.
What constitutes a standard drink? One 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (41).
Moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks per day for men (42).
16. Consider cutting back on caffeine
Caffeine raises your blood pressure, but the effect is temporary. It lasts 45 to 60 minutes and the reaction varies from individual to individual (43).
Some people may be more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you’re caffeine-sensitive, you may want to cut back on your coffee consumption, or try decaffeinated coffee.
Research on caffeine, including its health benefits, is in the news a lot. The choice of whether to cut back depends on many individual factors.
One older study indicated that caffeine’s effect on raising blood pressure is greater if your blood pressure is already high. This same study, however, called for more research on the subject (43).
17. Take prescription medication
If your blood pressure is very high or doesn’t decrease after making these lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend prescription drugs. They work and will improve your long-term outcome, especially if you have other risk factors (44). However, it can take some time to find the right combination of medications.
Talk with your doctor about possible medications and what might work best for you.
The One Step That Helps Lower Your Blood Pressure Without Medication
Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range is known to be one of the most efficient ways to avoid a host of ills, including heart disease and stroke. And engaging in an easy exercise like walking is proven to be a great drug-free way to maintain a normal blood pressure or help bring it down if it’s already high.
So why is it that as many as 75 million of us — that’s one in three adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — currently have high blood pressure, often without even knowing it?
The reason is simple: High blood pressure (also referred to as HBP, or hypertension) typically has no symptoms. It doesn’t, for example, cause chest pain or make you huff and puff while climbing a flight of stairs. The only way to know if your blood pressure is creeping up — and therefore take steps to control it — is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. American Heart Association guidelines define blood pressure as normal at less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and high blood pressure as 140/90 mmHg or more.
If you do find out that your blood pressure is heading in the wrong direction, there’s good news: Even small amounts of daily exercise can help keep it in check or lower your blood pressure if it’s already higher than it should be.
Can Low-Intensity Exercise Like Walking Reduce Your Blood Pressure?
Yes. In a landmark study in the journal Menopause, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, studied about 400 women between the ages of 45 and 75. All were overweight or obese, sedentary, and had high blood pressure. Researchers divided the women into four groups, three of which exercised at different intensity levels and for different lengths of time. The fourth group remained sedentary.
Six months later, all three groups of active women had improved blood pressure readings. The numbers for the group that did the most intense exercise were only slightly better than the numbers of the group that worked out least intensely. Though the women did not lose weight, they benefited greatly from improving their cardiovascular fitness.
Regular exercise also helps reduce stress by reining in the body’s stress hormones, including cortisol, notes Harvard Health. That’s key because stress can make blood pressure rise, even in young adults, according to research published online on October 28, 2016, in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
How Much Exercise Do You Need to Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check?
Ideally, everyone — but especially those with health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure — should get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise every week, says cardiologist Tracy Stevens, MD, of the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Try for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, and never go more than two days without any exercise,” says Dr. Stevens, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. “Walking is one of the best and easiest exercises you can do. You can walk anywhere, and it doesn’t require any equipment beyond a good pair of sneakers.”
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of committing to an exercise routine, relax. All you have to do is start by walking for just five minutes, three times a day, Stevens say. Those short walks will get easier each time, which, in turn, will make it easier to keep going a little longer. Before you know it, those initial 5 minutes will become 6, then 8, then 10 — and doing 10 minutes three times a day will add up to the 30 minutes you need.
Another way to get started is by sneaking short bursts of exercise into your day. Little steps that can add up include:
- Parking a little farther from the entrance everywhere you go — to work, to the grocery, to doctor appointments
- Carrying the groceries in from the car one bag at a time
- Prepping meals and moving around the kitchen as you cook instead of ordering takeout
- Taking the stairs rather than the elevator if you’re going up or down one or two flights
- Walking over and having a face-to-face chat with a coworker instead of calling or emailing
- Standing up and moving around the room while you’re on the phone and during commercial breaks on television
- Walking the dog for an extra five minutes
If you’re limited by back, hip, or knee pain and even short walks are difficult, try a workout that doesn’t put stress on your limbs. One good option is walking in a heated pool; the warm water will soothe and cushion rather than stress joints. A recumbent bike may be another good choice, Stevens says. It’s also smart to discuss your fitness plan with your doctor, who can give you personalized advice.
What Can Make Sticking to an Exercise Routine Easier?
- Take your blood pressure before and after you exercise. “The benefits of exercise for lowering blood pressure are so dramatic that it’s a great motivator,” Stevens says.
- Exercise at the same time every day. It’ll become a regular part of your routine, making it harder to skip.
- Wear comfortable clothes. If you’re exercising outdoors, dress for the weather — choose light layers you can peel off as you build up a sweat.
- Meet up with an exercise buddy. When someone else is counting on you, you’re not going to want to disappoint them. And friendly conversation makes the time speed by.
- Make it fun. As we all know, when an activity is fun, we’re more apt to repeat it. So make sure to choose activities you enjoy and switch things up often to avoid boredom. Walking is great, but so are dancing, Hula-Hooping, swimming, ice-skating, bicycling, even playing tag.
It’s a lot to take in, and you have questions, including:
“How long does it take to lower blood pressure?” and
“What’s the best way to do it?”
Here are answers from the physicians, registered dietitians, and other faculty at the famed Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, which has helped thousands over the past four decades lower their blood pressure and live well.
How long does it take to lower blood pressure?
It depends on how high your blood pressure is, and how aggressive the drug therapy is that your doctor may be prescribing.
Many doctors also begin therapy, not with drugs, but with lifestyle-change recommendations that involve healthy eating and daily exercise.
One diet-and-exercise program whose success with lowering blood pressure has been documented in several studies in peer-reviewed journals is the Pritikin Program, which has been taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center for nearly four decades.
Within 3 weeks
Studying men with hypertension who came to Pritikin, scientists at UCLA found that within three weeks, the men had significantly healthier levels of blood pressure. In fact, those who arrived at Pritikin taking hypertension drugs left Pritikin two to three weeks later no longer needing their medications, or with their dosages significantly reduced.1
Another study by UCLA researchers of 1,117 men and women with high blood pressure reported that within three weeks of arriving at Pritikin, systolic blood pressure fell on average 9%. Diastolic pressure also fell 9%. Of those taking blood pressure drugs, 55% returned home medication-free. Many of the remaining 45% left Pritikin with their dosages substantially reduced.2
“Just 3 days…”
While the published research on the Pritikin Program focuses on results achieved after following the program for three weeks, the physicians at the Pritikin Longevity Center point out that for many people, blood pressure begins dropping much sooner – almost immediately, in fact.
“We have many people with hypertension who come to Pritikin,” says Pritikin’s Medical Director Danine Fruge, MD, “and within three days, many have blood pressures that have dropped so low that we need to reduce their medications or take them off their pills altogether. Yes, just three days. That’s how quickly and powerfully our bodies respond to healthy food, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.”
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“I used to think these dramatic drops in blood pressure were something that happened to only a very few people,” continues Dr. Fruge, “but I’ve been here at Pritikin for more than 15 years, and I see results like these every week. This isn’t a miracle. It’s simply what happens when we start taking good care of ourselves.”
What is the Pritikin Program for lowering blood pressure?
The Pritikin Program, taught by the dietitians, exercise physiologists, physicians, and psychologists at the Pritikin Longevity Center, addresses all the adverse effects associated with hypertension by:
- Providing at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruits daily, which help ensure that you eat plenty of foods that are full of stomach-filling volume yet are low in calories, enhancing weight-loss efforts. Losing excess weight is one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure in the short term. Eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables also means you’ll be eating excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Many studies have found that foods rich in these minerals help blunt some of the toxic effects of sodium.
- Cutting back on calorie-dense foods loaded with fat, sugar, and/or refined grains to promote weight-loss efforts.
- Limiting the consumption of sodium to a healthy level – less than 1,500 mg daily for people under 50 years, less than 1,300 mg daily for those 50 to 69 years, and no more than 1,200 mg daily for people 70 years and older.
- Discouraging excess alcohol drinking (which has been shown to increase hypertension when consumed in excess of 3 drinks daily).
- Adding a daily exercise regime that aids in weight loss and stimulates nitric oxide production, a beneficial chemical that relaxes muscles in the artery walls and lowers blood pressure.
- Getting an adequate intake of calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D by consuming moderate amounts of nonfat dairy foods or soymilk, seafood, and a little sunshine.
A key take-away for many guests at Pritikin is the education they receive. “I knew I had to lower my sodium intake,” says Pritikin one alumnus from Connecticut, “but before coming to Pritikin, I didn’t really know how to do it.
“I thought, for example, that simply removing the salt shaker from my kitchen would solve the problem. I had no idea that 80% of the sodium Americans eat comes from outside the kitchen – from restaurant meals and commercially processed foods like breads, soups, and salad dressings.”
Drugs vs Lifestyle Change
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.
“So, while treating hypertension with drugs is generally better than no treatment, it is far from a cure,” asserts Dr. Fruge.
for High Blood Pressure
Taste of Pritikin
“In fact, most research suggests that drug therapy to lower blood pressure is not likely to be as effective as eliminating the causes of hypertension, which include over consumption of salt, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high-calorie-dense diet, which leads to excess weight.”
What’s more, drug treatment for high blood pressure frequently has annoying and sometimes serious side effects. Below is a summary of common medications for blood pressure control, and their common side effects.
Medications Prescribed For High Blood Pressure
Possible Side Effects: fatigue, leg cramps, erectile dysfunction, frequent urination, sudden, intense foot pain, weight gain
Possible Side Effects: insomnia, erectile dysfunction, depression, fatigue, weight gain
Angiotension Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors:
Possible Side Effects: dry, hacking cough, loss of taste, skin rashes
ACE inhibitors are often the blood pressure drugs of choice; they improve artery function, protect the kidneys, and protect the heart while lowering blood pressure. However, in controlled clinical trials, most showed no significant reduction in total or cardiovascular mortality compared to a diuretic.
Drug-Free Alternative For Lowering Blood Pressure: Pritikin
“For more than 40 years, the Pritikin Program has offered a safer and more effective alternative to pharmacological therapy because the program eliminates the dietary insults and other lifestyle-related factors that caused hypertension to develop in the first place,” summarizes Dr. Fruge.
“Our Pritikin guests who still need medications usually require a lower dose and/or fewer drugs, thereby reducing their risk of suffering adverse side effects from the medications.”
Questions & Answers
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Scientifically Proven Results
Documented in 100-plus medical journals. What Pritikin can do for you “
Author, Eugenia Killoran
1 Circulation, 2002; 106: 2530.
2 Journal of Applied Physiology, 2005; 98: 3.
3 American Journal of Cardiology, 2005; 95: 29.