Lose some weight. It has been shown that body weight is a major contributory factor to high blood pressure (BMJ, 1988; 297: 319-28) and that loss of weight lowers blood pressure (New Eng J Med, 1978; 298: 1-6). Twenty five to 30 per cent of all Americans are thought to be obese and 20 per cent men and 40 per cent of women are trying to lose weight at any one time (The Lancet, July 30, 1994). A successful weight reduction programme may reduce or remove the need for antihypertensive drugs and improve quality of life.

Take some exercise. This is an effective, drug free way to reduce blood pressure (The Lancet, May 15, 1993) but has received less attention than other methods, such as weight reduction and cutting down your intake of alcohol and sodium. Starting regular exercise during adolescence significantly reduces the risk of suffering a stroke later in life. Vigorous exercise between the ages of 15-25 provides the most protection and is not “appreciably affected” by factors like social class, weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, family’s history of heart trouble, a history of hypertension or diet. This kind of exercise later in life, especially up to the age of 55, also helps reduce the risk (BMJ, July 24, 1993).Relaxtion techniques, transcendental meditation, yoga, even hypnosis are all known to be useful in lowering blood pressure.

Reduce your intake of salt (Klinische Wochenschrift, 1991; 69 Suppl 25: 17-25 and Hypertension, Jan 1991 and take in more potassium. For example, a double cheeseburger contains around 150 per cent of your daily recommended intake of sodium (vegetarians whose diet is rich in potassium have a lower incidence of hypertension). Observational studies have suggested that individuals with a higher intake of potassium have a lower incidence of stroke (New Eng J Med, 1987; 316: 235-40). Magnesium and calcium supplements are thought to help reduce blood pressure as well (homeeopaths use a cratagus tincture whch comes from the hawthorn berry), but their case has not yet been proved (Am J Med, 1993; 93: 115-205 and Am J Hypertension, 1990; 3:1565-1605). Garlic (either in the form of pills or raw) has been used in folk medicine for years and has been shown to decrease the systolic pressure by between 20-30mm Hg and the dyastolic between 10-20mm Hg.

Cut down on alcohol. Drinking heavily will increase the risk of hypertension (Hypertension, Dec 1991 and Orvosi Hetilap, Jan 13, 1991). Excess alcohol consumption accounts for 5 to 30 per cent of all hypertension (Hypertension 1982;4 (Suppl III):143-150). Beer containing tyramine can also contribute to the condition, although moderate consumption shouldn’t (J of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Feb 1994).

Stop smoking.

Eat less saturated fat and increase your intake of essential fatty acids. Olive oil reduces hypertension by dilating the coronary vessels. Fish oil reduces blood pressure in those whose levels are raised (Circulation, August, 1993) but doesn’t appear to affect blood pressure levels in those not suffering from hypertension.

Food allergies have been shown to cause hypertension. They can raise pulse rate and and blood pressure.

Drink less coffee and tea. Many believe that the effects of heavy caffeine consumption over a long period raises blood pressure (Int J of Psychophysiology, Dec 1990) particularly in men. Drinking caffeine when under stress can also raise blood pressure in young men (Health Psychology, 1991; 10(4): 236-43).

Put more fibre in your diet. Lack of dietary fibre quite often seems to be associated with hypertension.

Watch your water. Lead, high levels of which are known to contribute to hypertension, dissolves much more easily in soft water. If you live in a soft water area there could well be a higher risk of your becoming hypertensive. A range of studies are currently being undertaken to find out just how serious long term exposure to lead in this way really is (Medycyna Pracy, 1994; 45(2): 163-170). Those who’ve had lead poisoning in childhood are more likely to suffer from hypertension later in life (Amer J of Diseases in Children, Jun 1991).

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