Home Remedies for High Blood Pressure

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
High blood pressure can be the warning sign for many serious health problems.

Sometimes what you don't know can hurt you. Such is the case with high blood pressure, or hypertension. Although one in four adults has high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), almost a third of them don't know they have it.

That's because high blood pressure often has no symptoms. It's not as if you feel the pressure of your blood coursing through your circulatory system. When the heart beats, it pumps blood to the arteries, creating pressure within them. That pressure can be normal or it can be excessive. High blood pressure is defined as a persistently elevated pressure of blood within the arteries.

Over time, the excessive force exerted against the arteries damages and scars them. It can also damage organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. High blood pressure can lead to strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and heart failure.

In 90 to 95 percent of all cases, the cause of high blood pressure isn't known. In such cases, when there is no underlying cause, the disease is known as primary, or essential, hypertension. Sometimes the high blood pressure is caused by another disease, such as an endocrine disorder. In such cases the disease is called secondary hypertension.

Who's at Risk?

While no one knows the exact cause of hypertension, there are specific factors that put you at risk of developing it. These include:

Age. The older you are, the greater the likelihood of developing hypertension.

Weight. The heavier you are, the greater your risk of hypertension.

Race. African Americans are more prone to high blood pressure than Caucasians.

Heredity. If high blood pressure runs in your family, you have an increased chance of developing it.

Cigarette smoking. Smoking causes hypertension as well as heart disease and cancer.

Alcohol use. Heavy drinking increases blood pressure.

Sodium consumption. Too much salt in your diet will do you in if you're sodium sensitive.

A sedentary lifestyle. Couch potatoes are at an increased risk for hypertension.

Pregnancy. Some expectant mothers experience elevated blood pressure.

Oral contraceptives. Some women who take birth control pills develop hypertension, especially if other risk factors are also present.

What to Look For

Hypertension is known as "the silent killer" because it has no or few obvious symptoms. The symptoms that it does present are shared by other diseases and conditions. But if you have any of these symptoms, be sure to have your blood pressure checked to rule out high blood pressure:

  • Frequent or severe headaches
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Flushing of the face
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Thumping in the chest
  • Frequent nosebleeds

Diagnosis

Finding out whether you have high blood pressure is simple. You just need to have your blood pressure checked by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional. Oftentimes you can even find blood pressure check booths at your local mall or at the pharmacy. The blood pressure test is simple, quick, and painless, but the results can save your life.

A blood pressure reading is given in two numbers, one over the other. The higher (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart is beating, indicating how hard your heart has to beat to get that blood moving. The lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

Blood pressure of less than 140 (systolic) over 90 (diastolic) is considered a normal reading for adults, according to the AHA, while a reading equal to or greater than 140 over 90 is considered elevated (high). A systolic pressure of 130 to 139 or a diastolic pressure of 85 to 89 needs to be watched carefully.

The key to controlling high blood pressure is knowing you have it. Under the guidance of a physician, you can battle hypertension through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and medication, if necessary. The kitchen holds several remedies to help you with your blood pressure -- keep reading to learn more.

For more information about battling heart problems, visit the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for High Blood Pressure

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
A diet low in fat and high in fiber is a winning combination for your heart.

The food you eat can significantly affect your blood chemistry and blood pressure. Fortunately, a diet that's good for your heart doesn't have to be agony for your taste buds. Here are some suggestions for making the right food choices for high blood pressure:

Do the DASH: Research supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute led to the development of an eating plan that can prevent and help treat high blood pressure.

The eating plan, known as the DASH -- named after a key study called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension -- is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes whole-grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts, and it limits meat, sweets, and sugary beverages. This makes for a diet rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber -- a winning combination for lowering blood pressure.

Cut back on salt: Research using the DASH diet and different levels of dietary sodium confirmed what has been advised for many years -- reducing dietary sodium and salt can help lower blood pressure. Some people, such as African Americans and the elderly, are especially sensitive to salt and sodium and should be particularly careful about how much they consume.

Being sensitive to salt (or sodium) means you have a tendency to retain fluid when you take in too much salt, probably because of a defect in your kidneys' ability to get rid of sodium. Your body tries to dilute the sodium in the blood by conserving fluids. This forces your blood vessels to work extra hard to circulate the additional blood volume.

Rack up potassium: Some people who have hypertension take thiazide diuretics that cause a loss of potassium, so they are told to eat a banana each day to replace it. But researchers now think extra potassium may be a good idea for everyone. Not only do we eat too much sodium, we take in too little potassium. It's the balance between sodium and potassium that is thought to be important to blood pressure.Don't run out to buy potassium supplements, however. That could be dangerous. Both too much and too little potassium can trigger a heart attack. Stick to foods high in potassium to be safe; foods rich in potassium include bananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, and milk.Note: If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and are taking a potassium-sparing diuretic (ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure) or if you have kidney disease, first ask your doctor whether you need extra potassium.

Collect calcium: Your heart needs calcium to maintain its proper rhythm, and your kidneys need calcium to regulate your body's sodium/water balance. Research has shown, however, that people who have high blood pressure generally don't get enough dietary calcium. Other studies confirm that getting extra calcium can actually lower blood pressure. But that effect is not necessarily seen with calcium supplements. Rely, instead, on foods that are rich in calcium.

Go for garlic: Numerous researchers have pointed to garlic's ability to lower blood pressure. It also makes a fabulous flavor replacement when you're cutting back on salt.

Let fruits and vegetables reign: Vegetarians have a much lower incidence of high blood pressure. You, too, can benefit from this approach without becoming a vegetarian. Gradually increase your daily servings by sneaking in an extra serving or two at each meal. You will likely be eating less fat, more fiber, less salt, and more potassium -- and you'll probably lose weight. Those benefits will help lower your blood pressure.

You don't have to cut the coffee: Caffeine does not appear to be associated with hypertension. While it can raise your blood pressure temporarily, your body adapts to the caffeine level if you routinely drink a certain amount of coffee, tea, or cola every day, and your blood pressure is no longer affected by that amount.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure Through Lifestyle Changes

© Publications International, Ltd.
© Publications International, Ltd.
Limiting stress can also lower your blood pressure.

A diagnosis of hypertension can mean a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Of course, most of the changes required to lower your blood pressure are healthy choices that your doctor has probably been suggesting for years. Here are some of the adjustments you can make to keep high blood pressure in check:

Lose weight: Slimming down lowers blood pressure in most people. In fact, for each pound lost, blood pressure may drop by two points. Losing weight may help you decrease the amount of medication you take or even get you off medication completely. Even a small amount of weight loss is beneficial.

Invest in a home blood pressure monitor: If you have been diagnosed as having high blood pressure, or if your doctor wants more blood pressure readings before making a definitive diagnosis, you may have been advised to buy a home blood pressure monitor.

At-home monitoring has several benefits -- first and foremost, warning you if your pressure becomes dangerously high, so you can get medical attention early. Second, a monitor can save you money, because it can save you trips to the doctor. (Check with your health insurer, because the cost of the monitor may be covered.) And it involves you more intimately in your own care, allowing you to see for yourself the benefits of lifestyle changes and treatments.

You can measure your blood pressure yourself, or you can have someone else do it. Try to check your blood pressure at the same time each day (or as often as your doctor recommends), because blood pressure normally fluctuates throughout the day.

Start an exercise program: Exercise lowers blood pressure and helps you lose weight. Check with your doctor before exercising, however -- if your blood pressure is very high, your doctor might want to get it under control before you begin an exercise regimen. This is especially important if you have been sedentary. The types of exercise that are most likely to benefit your blood pressure are aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, stair-climbing, aerobic dance, swimming, bicycling, tennis, skating, skiing, or anything else that elevates your pulse and sustains the elevation for at least 20 minutes.

Nonaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, push-ups, and chin-ups, may actually be dangerous for people with hypertension. These types of exercise should not be done without the explicit consent of your doctor.

Take your medicine: Unlike other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, you'll probably feel fine even if you don't take your medicine. However, inside your body, the disease will continue to progress, damaging the arteries in your eyes, destroying your kidneys, straining your heart, and so on. Another problem that can occur if you stop taking your medicine is a rebound phenomenon, in which your blood pressure rises to a higher level than it was before you started taking the drug.

Learn to relax: Many people misunderstand the term hypertension, believing it to mean a condition where the patient is overly tense. This isn't true. The term is defined solely by blood pressure levels. However, many people with hypertension do have the consummate "Type A" personality -- aggressive, workaholic, hostile, frustrated, or angry. For these people, some form of relaxation, be it meditation, yoga, biofeedback, or massage, or just making time for rest may be an important component of treatment. Chronically stressed individuals release a lot of adrenaline into their systems. That rush of hormone can constrict the arterioles (tiny blood vessels), causing them to go into spasm. It is difficult for the heart to push blood through constricted arterioles. The effect? Higher blood pressure.

Cut down on alcohol: More than one alcoholic drink a day may cause a rise in blood pressure. What constitutes a drink? A 1-ounce shot of hard liquor, a 6-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer -- all of which contain 1 ounce of alcohol.

Quit smoking -- now: Cigarette smoking is the number one taboo for people with hypertension. Not only does the nicotine contained in the smoke cause the blood pressure to rise, but it dramatically raises your risk of having a stroke. Cigarette smoking can thicken the blood and increase its propensity to clot. Blood clots in the arteries leading to the heart can cause a heart attack, while blood clots in the artery leading to the brain may cause a stroke. The good news is, you get an immediate benefit by giving up the habit.

Within two years of quitting, your risk of developing coronary artery disease drops as low as that of someone who doesn't smoke. (In contrast, it can take much longer for a person's risk of lung cancer to drop to that level.) Your doctor can recommend local resources to help you quit. You might also want to try the nicotine patch or nicotine gum, both now available over the counter, as an aid to kicking the habit.

Your kitchen holds home remedies that can help you combat hypertension. Go to the next page to learn about fruits, vegetables, and other foods that aid in the cause.

For more information about battling heart problems, visit the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Natural Home Remedies for High Blood Pressure

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Calcium plays a role in preventing high  blood pressure.

These common foods are probably already in your kitchen, and all can play a role as a home remedy to keep your blood pressure down.

Home Remedies from the Counter

Bananas. The banana has been proved to help reduce blood pressure. The average person needs three to four servings of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables each day. Some experts believe doubling this amount may benefit your blood pressure. If bananas aren't your favorite bunch of fruit, try dried apricots, raisins, currants, orange juice, spinach, boiled potatoes with skin, baked sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and winter squash.

Home Remedies from the Cupboard

Breads. Be good to your blood with a bit more "B," as in the B vitamin folate. Swimming around the blood is a substance called homocysteine, which at high levels is thought to reduce the stretching ability of the arteries. If the arteries are stiff as a board, the heart pumps extra hard to move the blood around. Folate helps reduce the levels of homocysteine, in turn helping arteries become pliable. You'll find folate in fortified breads and cereals, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and beans.

Canola, mustard seed, or safflower oils. Switching to polyunsaturated oils can make a big difference in your blood pressure readings. Switching to them will also reduce your blood cholesterol level.

Home Remedies from the Refrigerator

Broccoli. This vegetable is high in fiber, and a high fiber diet is known to help reduce blood pressure. So indulge in this and other fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber.

Celery. Because it contains high levels of 3-N-butylphthalide, a phytochemical that helps lower blood pressure, celery is in a class by itself. This phytochemical is not found in most other vegetables. Celery may also reduce stress hormones that constrict blood vessels, so it may be most effective in those whose high blood pressure is the result of mental stress.

Milk. The calcium in milk does more than build strong bones; it plays a modest role in preventing high blood pressure. Be sure to drink skim milk or eat low fat yogurt. Leafy green vegetables also provide calcium.

Home Remedies from the Spice Rack

Cayenne Pepper. This fiery spice is a popular home treatment for mild high blood pressure. Cayenne pepper allows smooth blood flow by preventing platelets from clumping together and accumulating in the blood. Add some cayenne pepper to the salt-free seasonings listed in the Recipe Box below, or add a dash to a salad or in salt-free soups.

Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf

Vitamin C. An antioxidant, vitamin C helps prevent free radicals from damaging artery walls, and it may help improve high blood pressure. Take a supplement or eat vitamin C-rich foods.

You should do everything you can at home to keep your blood pressure down. But in addition to these home remedies, be sure your doctor monitors your condition regularly.

For more information about battling heart problems, visit the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.