Your blood pressure reading has an upper and a lower number, called systolic and diastolic pressures, respectively. The diastolic pressure indicates the heart's pressure when it is relaxing between beats. A diastolic pressure above 90 is considered high because it can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. If your blood pressure is constantly high you must learn how to lower diastolic pressure not only by taking medications but also by making some lifestyle changes.
Health experts with Mayo Clinic emphasize the important role of a healthy lifestyle in maintaining normal blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure with healthy habits can help reduce the need for taking medications. Here are some natural ways to lower diastolic pressure.
1. Improve Daily Habits
It is important to improve your daily habits to avoid increasing your diastolic blood pressure. This includes giving up tobacco and reducing your intake of alcohol and salt. Reducing salt intake even a little significantly lowers diastolic pressure. Consuming small amounts of alcohol can lower blood pressure but taking more than one glass can increase your blood pressure. Caffeine causes spikes in blood pressure, but scientists are not sure if effects are long lasting. Inhaling nicotine from smoke or even secondhand smoke has been proven to raise blood pressure.
2. Have Beneficial Foods
Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products has been shown to reduce blood pressure by as much as 14 mm Hg. Avoid foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol to lower your blood pressure. Known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension ) diet, this eating plan also includes:
- Foods high in potassium, which is important for regulating diastolic pressure. Examples include bananas, apricots, lima beans, avocados, spinach, prunes, oranges, and tomatoes.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as shellfish and cold water fish (sardines, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, and tuna). Studies show that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, when taken in moderate doses, can lower diastolic blood pressure in people aged 40 and above.
- Hawthorn tea (also known as Crataegus laevigata), taken several cups each day, has a hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) effect. It also has a tonic effect on the heart muscle, normalizing its contractions.
- Skim milk or 1% milk provides vitamin D and calcium, which help reduce blood pressure by 3-10%. This effect adds up to about 15% reduction in your risk for heart disease.
- Dark chocolate (with about 70% cocoa) helps lower blood pressure without gaining weight or other adverse effects, if taken in small amounts (30 calories, equivalent to a small piece of chocolate).
3. Lose Extra Weight
Research shows that losing a few pounds can have significant impact on blood pressure reduction. Excess fat makes the heart work harder, which leads to increased blood pressure (hypertension). Weight reduction also makes blood pressure lowering treatments more effective. Consult your doctor about achieving your target weight. Aside from losing pounds, try to trim some inches from your waistline. Studies show that a big waistline, which is due to belly fat, can result in high blood pressure as well as heart disease.
4. Exercise Regularly
Increase your level of activity by starting with light aerobic exercises such as walking, using a treadmill, swimming, climbing stairs, or jogging. Exercising for at least 30 minutes daily helps lower diastolic blood pressure and tone the heart muscles. Ask your doctor about a suitable exercise program for you. Short bursts of moderate activity and strength training have also been shown to help improve blood pressure.
5. Manage Stress
Stress and anxiety can increase your blood pressure. Find out what causes stress in your life (family, work, illness, finances, etc) and think about how you can manage these to reduce stress. Practice relaxing techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation and getting a massage. Pursue a hobby or engage in activities such as dancing or painting, which can help relieve stress and reduce diastolic blood pressure. Seek counseling if these self-help techniques do not work.
6. Get Support
Aside from self-help and professional help, a support group such as family and friends can improve your health, physically and emotionally. They may help you pursue an exercise program, encourage you to visit your doctor, or inspire you to take better care of yourself. They can also help you talk about your condition. If you need more support, join a local support group who can share practical ways in coping with your health condition. This will help reduce blood pressure and aid in maintaining good morale.