Taking steps to keep your blood pressure steady — and lower it quickly if it starts creeping up — can cut your risk of heart disease and stroke in half, and it can keep your mind sharp as if you were 15 years younger, according to Cleveland Clinic researchers.
Even if your blood pressure was fine a few years ago, it’s smart to check it regularly. At least one in three folks with high blood pressure doesn’t realize that the problem has crept up on them. Ask your doctor or use one of the free blood pressure monitors available at many pharmacies.
Here’s what the numbers mean:
- Less than 120/80: Normal
- 120/80 to 139/89: Prehypertension
- 140/90 or greater: Hypertension
Good news! Controlling your BP is getting a lot easier.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Reverse Aging.
Sip tea to nourish your blood vessels
Drinking three cups of black, green, white, or oolong tea daily can cut your risk of hypertension 46 percent — and lower your numbers fie points if they're already high, reports the Archives of Internal Medicine. The flavonoids in tea relax and dilate blood vessels and help block the formation of artery-stiffening plaque, says lead researcher Jonathan Hodgson, PhD. If your blood pressure is really stubborn, switching to hibiscus tea (which acts like an ACE inhibitor) can trim your level 15 points.
Green veggies can erase hormonal triggers
Even if you're past menopause, your fat cells produce a steady trickle of estrogen. And ensuring it's the gentlest, safest form can cut your risk of high blood pressure 50 percent. The key: Eating a heaping cup of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale daily, say Georgetown University researchers.
Take resveratrol to relax your muscles
An analysis of six studies suggests taking 200 mg. of this grape skin extract daily can widen arteries, improve blood flow, and prevent pressure spikes, trimming up to 11 points off your pressure. Resveratrol helps muscles surrounding arteries relax and reduce inflammation, says study author Yanxia Liu, PhD.
Control cortisol with a foot massage
You can lower your blood pressure as much as five points in three months — the same improvement you'd get from a from a low-salt diet — by firmly massaging the bottoms of your feet for two minutes twice daily. To maximize the benefit, focus on the base of your big toes and the arch of each food — areas that Chinese pros say are packed reflexology points that calm the adrenal glands, reducing their production of pressure-spiking cortisol.
Broccoli will keep sodium in check
Too much sodium does raise blood pressure, but there's an easy fix: Eat three cups of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or bok choy weekly. All are top sources of sulforaphane, a phytochemical that helps your kidneys flush out pressure-raising sodium, UCLA research shows. And that, say Oregon Health & Science University scientists, can trim your blood pressure 10 percent or more. Eating a half-cup of cooked tomatoes (spaghetti sauce and salsa count!) every day, too. Rich stores of the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes also helps your kidneys excrete sodium, reports the American Heart Journal.
Avoid spikes with CoQ10
Supplementing with 120 mg. of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) keeps your artery walls relaxed 24/7, even when your stress level soars. Plus it can trim your blood pressure as much as 17 points in three minutes, say University of Connecticut experts. Bonus: CoQ10 helps your cells convert food into usable energy, so much so that taking it chases away tiredness for nine in 10 women!
Stay calm with an upbeat book
Increasing your production of the calming hormone dopamine and oxytocin can lower your blood pressure six points or more — and one of the quickest ways to get that soothing hormone boost is to spend 20 minutes a day reading something upbeat and inspiring. Real-life stories that fit the bill include Treasure Yourself by Miranda Kerr ($9.59, Amazon), I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai ($7.98, Amazon), and Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen ($10.99, Amazon).
Avoid trouble by walking barefoot
Having to sit all day at work has been linked to high blood pressure — but there's a very simple antidote: Just walking around barefoot on a rough surface (like a walkway, patio, or scratchy door mat) for five minutes, twice a day, can stimulate acupressure points on the soles of your feet that reduce stress, rimming five points off your pressure.
Clear your arteries with seafood
Including three 6-oz. servings of fish in your weekly diet can lower your blood pressure as effectively as eating a low-salt diet, say Harvard School of Public Health pros. "Fish's protein, potassium, and healthy fats stall the buildup of artery-stiffening, pressure-raising plaque, plus help relax and dilate the blood vessels that nourish your heart," explains Micahel Rolzen, MD, author of This Is Your Do-Over: The 7 Secrets to Losing Weight, Living Longer, and Getting a Second Chance at the Life You Want ($11.26, Amazon).