High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a worldwide problem and the leading risk factor for death, according to Dr. Robert D. Brook, associate professor of medicine and cardiologist at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center. With an estimated one billion people diagnosed with high blood pressure throughout the world, “it is truly a global problem, on par with tobacco use as a risk for dying.” But, he adds, “It is a controllable disease.” Read on for things you can do to control high blood pressure, including some natural remedies.
Steps to control high blood pressure
In fact, says Dr. Brook, the blood pressure control rate has improved over the last decade in the United States. Approximately 50 percent of those diagnosed with hypertension are controlling it, and that number could go as high as 85 percent if people followed steps to control high blood pressure. Here are some effective methods recommended by Dr. Brook:
- Maintain an active lifestyle
- Limit salt and sodium consumption
- Eat a healthy diet
- Restrict alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce consumption of caffeine
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit stress
- Take medications as directed
Natural ways to lower your blood pressure
As chair of an expert panel that assessed alternative methods of controlling blood pressure, Dr. Brook promotes the following non-invasive techniques:
Device-guided slow breathing: This alternative method features a computerized device connected to a sensor belt (worn around the abdomen) and earphones that are plugged into the device. When turned on, the device generates musical patterns (based on the user’s breathing rate), which guide the user to slow his or her breathing rate to less than 10 breaths per minute. This method was determined by the panel to be effective in lowering blood pressure when performed for 15-minute sessions four or five times per week. Several varieties are available online.
Isometric handgrip exercises: This method involves athletic handgrips, which can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Dr. Brook recommends holding the athletic gripper in one hand and squeezing it for two minutes then switching hands and repeating the exercise for a total of 15 minutes per day. Over a period of four weeks, according to the panel’s assessment, this method resulted in some of the most impressive reductions in blood pressure.
When practiced consistently, Dr. Brook says, “There is good scientific evidence that these alternative techniques can help lower blood pressure when added to a treatment regimen after patients discuss their goals with their doctors.”
Benefits of a heart-healthy lifestyle
According to the American Heat Association, by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can:
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure
- Enhance the effectiveness of blood pressure medications
- Lower your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease
Test your blood-pressure IQ
The American Heart Association offers a quick quiz to test your knowledge about high blood pressure, The quiz includes helpful information, some of it surprising. Take the quiz now.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.