Ten lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure

Jane Murphy / 22 March 2016

From the benefits of beetroot juice to taking a nap, we round up some of the most recent findings from blood pressure research.



Foods that may help lower your blood pressure

1. Eat more yogurt

Women who eat five or more servings of yogurt each week, especially as part of a healthy diet, have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure. That's according to a new study from Boston University School of Medicine.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 300,000 people, and noted a reduced risk of around 20 per cent for those who simply ate a lot of yogurt. This rose to 31 per cent for women whose diets were also rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans.

One theory is that the calcium found in yogurt makes blood vessels more supple, which keeps pressure low.

Learn more about calcium’s health benefits

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2. Drink beetroot juice

Fancy a drink with your yoghurt? A daily dose of beetroot juice can help lower blood pressure, as well as boost physical endurance, in older adults, say scientists at Wake Forest Medical Center in the US.

Previous studies have also highlighted the benefits of beetroot juice, which are thought to be due to its high nitrate content. Nitrates help boost oxygen levels in areas of the body that are lacking.

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3. Take up yoga

Any regular exercise can help keep blood pressure in check, of course – but yoga may hold particular benefits for people with atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cardiac rhythm disorder.

Patients with AF who attended weekly yoga sessions – comprising light movement, deep breathing and meditation – experienced fewer attacks and lower blood pressure after 12 weeks, a recent Swedish study found.

Find out more about the mind and body benefits of yoga

4. Hold the sugar!

OK, you already know you should be cutting down on sugar. But did you know that reducing sugar intake without cutting calories can lower your blood pressure in just 10 days?

When sugar was restricted in the diets of obese children, their blood pressure and cholesterol levels took a nosedive, even though they continued eating high-calorie foods such as pasta, pizza and crisps, in a recent ground-breaking US study.

'This study demonstrates that "a calorie is not a calorie",' says lead author Dr Robert Lustig. 'Where those calories come from determines where in the body they go. Sugar calories are the worst, because they turn to fat in the liver, driving insulin resistance, and driving risk for diabetes, heart and liver disease.'

10 ways to eat less sugar

5. Sleep well tonight

Watching your salt intake? Good for you! However, the combination of a low-salt diet and irregular sleep pattern – due to shift work or illness, for example – can result in an dangerously elevated resting blood pressure, according to a study from Augusta University in the US.

So take steps to regulate your sleep pattern – or speak to your GP for more advice.

Healthy reasons to get a better night’s sleep

6. Take a nap

Talking of sleep, here's a good excuse to take a regular midday snooze. In a recent Greek study of 400 middle-aged men and women, those who napped at noon had blood pressure readings that were around five per cent lower than those who stayed awake all day. Longer naps of up to an hour produced the best results.

7. Sprinkle some flaxseed

It may not be bursting with flavour – but flaxseed boasts plenty of health benefits, partly due to its heart-boosting omega-3 content.

A recent study analysis, published in the Journal of Nutrition, concluded that flaxseed consumption may lower blood pressure slightly. The effect appears to be greater when it's consumed regularly as a whole seed and for at least 12 weeks.

The seeds of goodness – how seeds can help your health

8. Eat more blueberries

Here's something else to add to your daily diet, along with yoghurt, beetroot juice and flaxseed. Eating blueberries every day may reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, according to a study of post-menopausal women, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The effect may partly be due to the high nitrate content in the berries.

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9. Listen to classical music

But not just any classical music: certain works encourage blood pressure to drop, says an Oxford University study.

Researchers found that slow music with a 10-second repetitive cycle has a calming effect on listeners because it matches the body's natural 10-second waves of blood pressure control.

Your perfect playlist? Va Pensiero by Verdi, Nessun Dorma by Puccini and Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio.

How music makes you feel better

10. Go offline for a while

Excessive internet use could be raising our blood pressure, according to scientists at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Out of 134 teenagers whose internet usage was deemed heavy, 26 were found to have elevated blood pressure – far higher than the average rate.

One possible explanation, of course, is that people who sit in front of a screen all day are unlikely to be getting enough exercise. So do remember to switch off and move around.

10 reasons to get outdoors more

For more help with lowering your blood pressure, go to Blood Pressure UK - www.bloodpressureuk.org

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