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“Hypertension is a completely modifiable risk factor,” says Mimi Guarneri, MD, a functional-medicine cardiologist in La Jolla, Calif. Below are some tips from Guarneri and other integrative-health experts:

  1. Quit smoking. Smoking raises triglycerides in the blood, increases platelet “stickiness,” and leads to thickened and narrowed blood vessels — all risk factors for hypertension and heart disease.
  2. Eat green leafy vegetables. These are rich in potassium, a mineral that can help lower blood pressure, as well as a range of important phytonutrients.
  3. Lower sodium intake from processed foods. Excess sodium prevents the kidneys from removing water from the blood; increased blood volume can place more pressure on arterial walls.
  4. Lose weight. While not all overweight individuals are hypertensive, for those who are, shedding pounds can help. When the body carries extra adipose tissue, it can stress the vascular system, making the heart work harder to pump blood. Losing weight can reduce this pressure.
  5. Manage stress. Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system’s survival response, which includes an increase in blood pressure in preparation to fight or flee. This is one reason chronic stress frequently corresponds to hypertension, and why addressing the former often makes a difference in the latter. “Meditation has been studied in hypertensive African Americans . . . [and shown to decrease] stroke and heart-attack risk,” says Guarneri. (For more on maintaining a healthy heart, see “Rethinking Heart Health.”)

This originally appeared in “How Low Can You Go?” as “Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure” in the September 2019 print issue of Experience Life.

Illustration by: Stuart Briers

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