16 Non-Drug Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
By Rebecca Abma
All too often, diabetes and hypertension go hand in hand. As many as two out of three adults with diabetes have hypertension (high blood pressure), too. And both conditions increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and eye and kidney diseases.
Like blood sugar, your blood pressure levels can fluctuate throughout the day. Normal readings are at or below 120/80 mmHg, but a single reading above that isn't cause for alarm. Hypertension is defined as two or more consecutive readings above 140/90.
However, people with diabetes have a lower blood pressure target than the general public: Because of the increased risk of heart disease that comes with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health recommend that people with diabetes keep their blood pressure below 130/80.
If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as following the DASH diet, before prescribing medication. The following are some other, non-drug blood-pressure reducers worth adopting whether or not you have hypertension.
1. Cut back on salt. It's no surprise that sodium can raise your blood pressure. If everyone in America cut their salt intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day, 16 million cases of high blood pressure would be prevented every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Current average daily intake for Americans exceeds 3,400mg.)
2. De-stress. A recent review of 107 studies on stress reduction techniques and blood pressure found that Transcendental Meditation, biofeedback, stress management training, and progressive muscle relaxation were all effective in lowering blood pressure.
Also, a study presented at the American Society of Hypertension's annual meeting in May 2008 found that listening to relaxing music for 30 minutes a day reduces blood pressure.
3. Go easy on the alcohol. Experts recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. In fact, studies show that when heavy drinkers cut down on alcohol, it lowers blood pressure. If you drink alcohol and are at risk of high blood pressure, talk to your doctor.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 10/08
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