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  • Writer's pictureCoach Paul Kuck

These 11 Strategies Helped My Clients' BP Drop below 120/80

High blood pressure or Hypertension is known as the 'Silent Killer' because many people are unaware that they have the condition that increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, aneurysms, and kidney failure—and it’s a contributor to countless death in Singapore and the world each year. High blood pressure interacts with other major risk factors such as diabetes and high levels of cholesterol to amplify the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Our blood pressure is measured in two numbers. The top number is your systolic pressure, or the amount of pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. It ideally should remain below 120. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, or the amount of pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats. It should stay below 80.

If you or your loved ones are diagnosed with hypertension, when either or both numbers are high, you need to take important steps to lower them.

Here is the good news: you can actually manage hypertension and lower your blood pressure numbers without medications through some lifestyle fixes. I often advise my personal training clients and participants who come to my talks with hypertension to undertake some specific strategies. Many did so with great successes and had dropped their BP down to a normal range

Without ado, here are the top 11 science-based methods:

1) Lose weight

Being overweight puts extra strain on your heart, increasing the risk for developing high blood pressure and damage to your blood vessels that can lead to more serious health issues. For those who are overweight, merely losing the extras maybe is all you need to do to reduce the strain on the heart and bring the blood pressure down to a norm. This is not to say a person at a healthy weight cannot have high blood pressure. Weight is one of the key factors besides other possible causes.

Suggestions: Check if you are overweight/overfat. If so, reduce 5 to 10% of your weight through healthful eating and exercise (read our blog for some strategies).

2) Move more.

Many ailments weren't even existed until we start to move less and less. Exercise is hence a cure for lifestyle diseases like hypertension. Both aerobic exercises and strength training are known to reduce blood pressure. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger and this mean it can pump more blood with less effort. When this happens, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.

According to a 2013 study, sedentary older adults who participated in aerobic exercise training lowered their blood pressure by an average of 3.9% for systolic and 4.5% for diastolic. These positive outcomes are comparable to some hypertension medications! Among our clients we often see a decrease of 5 to 9 mm Hg in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure after only several weeks of health focused-training.

Suggestion: Try to do at least 3 days of aerobic exercises (walking, jogging, swimming, rowing, cycling etc) for 25 to 30 mins (if you do it HIIT style, the duration will be 15 to 20 mins) and 2 days of weight training sessions, focusing on whole body workouts.

More tips to increase your activity level:

  • use the stairs instead of elevators

  • walk more, drive / take transport less often

  • clean the house

  • do gardening

  • going for a bike ride

  • play sports

The secret here is to do it regularly.

3) Cut back on caffeine

The impact of caffeine on blood pressure is inconclusive but it possible that it can increase blood pressure for some individuals. To see if you are one such sensitive individuals, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you know the caffeine has a negative effect on you.

Suggestion: Caffeine is not found just in coffee but in many other beverages as well. Know where they are hidden and reduce the intake. Here is a link for information about amount of caffeine in drinks.

4) Eat a blood pressure friendly diet

What you eat and drink has a dramatic effect on your heart and blood pressure. The more healthy your eating habits are, the lower your blood pressure will be. If you already have high blood pressure, it is even more crucial to make healthy changes to your diet. If you are taking prescription drugs for your blood pressure, proper diet can reduce the medications you need. A reduction of 10-12mg in readings is found those who followed a balanced diet.

Suggestions: Focus on a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (eg olive oil, avocado, oily fish like sardine, mackerel, salmon) . Eat them frequently and see your blood pressure improve.

5) Reduce sodium in your diet

Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.

Suggestion: To decrease sodium intake in your diet, follow these :

  • Gradually cut back on salt intake instead of going cold turkey. Your palate will adjust over time.

  • Eat out less often, cook the food yourself. You don't know what you don't know, like the amount of sodium that goes into your meal.

  • Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.

  • Instead of salt, use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food.

  • Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.

6) Eat potassium-rich food

Potassium helps your body get rid of sodium and relaxes your blood vessels. Most of the people's diet are lacking in potassium.

Suggestion: Jack up your own intake of this important mineral. Good sources are: banana, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, potatoes, avocado, spinach, sweet potato, salmon, dried apricots, pomegranate etc.

7) Drink less (alcohol that is)

Drinking alcohol is double edge sword as far as blood pressure is concerned. Little is good while excess is bad. Well it's the same for all things in life isn't it? Alcohol consumption is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world. Drinking beyond 3 glasses in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to chronic increases. Heavy drinking, is also linked to a higher incidence of cerebral thrombosis, cerebral hemorrhage and coronary artery disease deaths.

Suggestion: It is suggested limit your drinking to no more than two drinks a day for men, two for women. This may reduce your blood pressure instead of elevating it.

8) Take GARLIC

This herb is truly nature's multivitamin. It is chock full of nutrients and is useful for a treating a host of ailments, including reducing blood pressure levels, enhancing blood thinning (to prevent blood clots), and lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It contains 33 sulphur compounds, 17 amino acids, antioxidants, and multiple vitamins and minerals. One particular beneficial compound is a substance called allicin. It is responsible for reducing blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease.

Garlic is so powerful it can interact with several drugs like blood thinners and hypotensive agents (blood pressure lowering medicines). If you take any medication, you may want to talk to your doctor before taking garlic.

Suggestion: Eat 3 to 6 cloves a day. It is best to cut or crush them, to activate their bioactive compounds, then cook them or eat them raw. Can't accept the taste of garlic? Take it the supplement form.

9) Take COCOA.

Low nitric oxide (NO) levels can cause blood vessels to narrow, leading to reduced blood flow, hence increasing the blood pressure. Eating certain foods that contain flavonoids can reverse that and increase NO levels. A highly recommended food is COCOA powder or dark chocolate (note: sorry Milo, Ovaltine or milk/white chocolate doesn't count) .A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure.

Suggestion: for best NO boosting, lowering blood pressure effects, mix a 1 to 2 spoons of non-alkalized cocoa powder (this is my personal favourite). to your low-fat milk, oats or yogurt and drink daily.

10) Chill man..

Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to spikes in blood pressure.

More research is needed to determine the effects of chronic stress on blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking. Time to destress.

Suggestion: Use the following methods to cut down stress levels:

  • Get enough quality sleep. Lack-of and/or poor-quality sleep can negatively affect your overall health and energy level, and also cause your blood pressure to rise.

  • Practise relaxation techniques like meditation,, deep breathing exercises, and yoga. They are great stress-busters.

  • Improve your time-management skills and finish work on time.

  • Constantly take breaks.

11) Monitor your blood pressure at home

Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, ensuring changes you made are working. Note that this does not replace the regular check-ups with your family doctor who can provide most accurate assessment of your blood pressure and provide specific advises.

Suggestion: Commercial blood pressure monitors are available widely and without needing a prescription. Get one.

Need to organise a science-based talk for your organisation?

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Guoyuan Huang, Xiangrong Shi, Cheryl A. Gibson, Sunny C. Huang, Nadine A. Coudret & Mary C. Ehlman (2013) Controlled aerobic exercise training reduces resting blood pressure in sedentary older adults, Blood Pressure, 22:6, 386-394.

Bloomer RJ, Harvey IC, Farney TM, Bell ZW, Canale RE. Effects of 1,3-dimethylamylamine and caffeine alone or in combination on heart rate and blood pressure in healthy men and women. Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Sep;39(3):111-20.

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