I used to have quite the problem with high blood pressure. Even as a teen, it was always a little high during my sports physicals. In my twenties it jumped up high enough that I started on medicine. But now, it’s no longer a problem. I don’t take medication, and every time I check, it’s actually below 120/80.
Now, let me tell you my secret on what to do to lower blood pressure to a very healthy level. For me, it was one simple dietary change.
I cut down on my sodium intake. I, ladies and gentlemen, used to be a saltaholic. I wouldn’t even taste my food before pouring on the salt. But now I can curb my addiction by using salt substitute.
I like the NoSalt brand, which substitutes potassium chloride for the sodium. I think the extra potassium helps lower my blood pressure also. There are other brands you may like better. Some, like the Mrs. Dash seasonings, contain a blend of spices you can sprinkle on instead of the potassium.
Below 120/80? Is That OK?
Contrary to popular belief, 120/80 is no magic number. Having a blood pressure lower than that is actually good for you—as long as you feel OK and the lower number isn’t from some other medical problem, like anemia, blood loss, a bad heart, etc.
Other than that, I cut back on high-sodium foods like processed meats. I buy low-salt soups and just add some NoSalt. It works for me. It may or may not work for you. And let me tell you why.
How to Tell Whether You’re Salt Sensitive
Among people with a tendency for high blood pressure, there’s a subgroup who are very sensitive to sodium. Too much of it makes our blood pressure shoot for the stars. For other groups, sodium has much less of an effect. The only way you’ll know whether you’re salt sensitive is to cut back on the sodium and monitor your blood pressure.
The general rule is to keep your sodium intake around 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg per day. For me, I don’t measure. I just try to cut out as much as I can. You need a little sodium, but I don’t worry about that because I know I’m getting some in just about every food and drink I ingest.
Getting Used to the Taste of Potassium Salt
I had no trouble getting used to the taste, but many people do. So don’t be surprised if you dislike it at first. Give it some time and it very likely will grow on you.
There is another reason the potassium-chloride substitute may help. I alluded to it above. We know from multiple studies that most anyone’s blood pressure can benefit from increasing your daily potassium intake. Of course, foods are the best source, and I eat plenty of potassium-rich foods.
However, before increasing your dietary potassium in any way, make certain your kidneys are functioning normally. They keep your potassium blood levels normal. A high buildup of blood potassium can be lethal. So check with your doctor.
Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication
So Should You Avoid Medication?
No, I’m not advising you not to take prescription medication. Often, it’s a lifesaver. And these days, there are plenty of more affordable generic brands with minimal to no side effects.
Other tips on what to do to lower blood pressure include:
- Don’t smoke.
- Keep your weight normal.
- Exercise 30 minutes or more most every day.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- Keep your caffeine to two or fewer caffeinated drinks a day.
- Avoid too much stress. Try relaxation techniques.
- Avoid medicines and supplements that could raise your blood pressure. These include over-the-counter cold medicines that contain a decongestant, diet pills, and even NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Be sure you know the side effects and risks of any supplements before taking them, including whether they might elevate your blood pressure.
Garlic is one supplement that may lower your blood pressure a bit. Read more on the side effects, interactions, precautions, and dosage here.
Who Should Be Checked for High Blood Pressure
Remember, you can have dangerously high blood pressure and feel great. In fact, until you become used to a lower, safer blood pressure, you may feel tired and fatigued. Realize this and give it a few weeks to get to feeling back to normal.
Since high blood pressure is known as the silent killer, even with no symptoms, everyone should get their blood pressure checked every few years—more often if you’re getting past 40 or have a family history. Many clinics will check it for you for free.
If it’s trending a little high or someone in your family has high blood pressure (which puts you at higher risk), I suggest you buy an automatic cuff and check your blood pressure at various times during the day at home. That usually gives you a better idea of your true blood pressure number since many people have “white-coat hypertension.” Their blood pressure goes up a bit at the doctor’s office.
What’s been your experience? Do you or a loved one have high blood pressure? What have you done to get it down?
You May Also Like:
- 5 Natural Ways to Lower High Blood Cholesterol
- What to Do If You’re Having a Heart Attack
- Are Heart Palpitations Dangerous?
Full disclosure: I have no relationship with the makers of NoSalt or any other salt substitute. I’m simply sharing personal experience.
Photo via Flicker/Sharyn Morrow.