Having Trouble Controlling Your Blood Pressure? These Tips May Help

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 17, 2017
How can I lower my blood pressure?

Every time you see your doctor, there’s a good chance someone takes your blood pressure. Why? Blood pressure readings can help your doctor understand what is going on in your body. For instance, high blood pressure indicates a risk for cardiovascular disease and kidney failure; very low blood pressure might suggest a potential risk of heart failure; and blood pressure that varies between arms often raises a flag for peripheral artery disease.

As you age, your blood vessels lose some of their flexibility, making it increasingly difficult for you to control your pressure. This helps explain why doctors around the world are measuring higher average blood pressure readings, according to a recent study published in The JAMA Network Journals. As the global population ages, average readings for systolic pressure—that’s the top number—and its related complications are rising.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body, providing it with nutrients, oxygen and antibodies that help clear cellular debris away from injured and/or diseased areas. As the blood travels, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels, creating pressure. And when pressure is consistently high, it can damage your arteries, heart, brain and kidneys.  

Results of blood pressure readings are expressed as fractions, like 120/80. The top number, or systolic, measures the pressure created when your heart contracts and pushes blood through your body. The bottom number, or diastolic, is the arterial pressure between heart beats. For an understanding of blood pressure readings, refer to the American Heart Association’s Blood Pressure Category Chart (below).

Blood Pressure Category Systolic mm Hg (upper #)   Diastolic mm Hg (upper #)
Normal 120 (or less) and 80 or less
Elevated Blood Pressure 120-129 and 80 
High Blood Pressure Stage 1 130-139 or 80-89
High Blood Pressure Stage 2 > or = 140 or higher or 90 or higher

Source: American Heart Association; Updated 2018 to reflect American Heart Association blood pressure guidelines released November 2017.

Lifestyle behaviors, medications, health issues and genes can all cause high blood pressure. And while lifestyle modifications and medication can help control blood pressure, some people still struggle—especially managing systolic pressure, according to the recent JAMA study. 

For the study, researchers tracked systolic blood pressures among 8.7 million participants worldwide. They found that systolic blood pressures increased substantially from 1990 to 2015—about 3.5 billion adults had systolic pressures between 110 and 115 mm Hg and another 874 million adults had systolic pressures of 140 mm Hg or higher. A healthy systolic blood pressure range is considered below 120 mm Hg.

Lowering systolic blood pressure can save lives. One Loyola University Health System study suggested that lowering the average systolic reading could save more than 100,000 lives each year in the U.S.

Managing your blood pressure can be a challenge. Before you make changes, talk to your doctor. Here are some common strategies that can help lower your systolic blood pressure: 

  • Begin an exercise program that includes walking or cycling and light weight training routine.
  • Adopt the DASH diet, an eating plan designed to help prevent and/or control high blood pressure.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine raises your blood pressure and heart rate and narrows blood vessels.
  • Buy a home blood pressure monitor and take your pressure on a daily basis. Keeping track will help your doctor adjust your medication as needed and help you gauge which pressure lowering strategies work best for you. Because some home blood pressure monitors are not accurate, click here for tips to help you get the most precise readings possible.  

You can also try these complementary therapies:

  • Practice transcendental meditation and/or deep breathing to help you control stress, a known hypertension trigger.
  • Cook with celery and garlic whenever possible. According to Cleveland Clinic, celery and garlic contain phthalides, a plant chemical that seems to relax arterial walls, improving blood flow and pressure.                   
  • Drink hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice and/or beet juice. According to WebMD, studies suggest that drinking these juices on a regular basis can help lower blood pressure. 
  • Discuss supplements with your doctor. Mayo Clinic reports that supplements for folic acid, potassium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 might help lower pressure.
  • Try acupuncture. Researchers from the University of California - Irvine recently found that using acupuncture to treat patients with mild to moderate hypertension could help lower blood pressure for up to six weeks. But talk to your doctor before scheduling an appointment.

Finally, work with your MDVIP-affiliated doctor. As part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, your doctor can customize a wellness plan for you and your needs. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Learn more about the benefits of a private doctor and MDVIP membership here.

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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