How did you lower your blood pressure without medication?
December 23, 2011 2:31 PM   Subscribe

How did you lower your blood pressure without medication?

I would like to know how real people have managed to lower their blood pressure without medication. I know weight loss, salt/alcohol reduction, etc can make that happen, but after a couple of months of healthy eating and moderate exercise, my husband is losing momentum. We need some inspiration here.

Background: late 20's male, overweight, eats lots of fruits and veggies, but drinks alcohol regularly (3-5 drinks per day). Major family history of heart disease, gout, blood pressure issues, and weight issues. Exercises occasionally, but not cardio much. We have greatly reduced the sodium intake and upped the veggies, but with little effect.

How did you do it? If you lost weight, how did you lose weight? Is alcohol is as big of a factor as I'm thinking it might be? What I'm trying to get at here is this: for those of you who have lowered your blood pressure, are there one or two things you can pinpoint as being the major factors in your success?

Go, go, gadget metafilter!
posted by picapica to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I think stress was a factor for me. (I randomly developed high BP as a not-overweight 24-year-old vegetarian who was walking 3+ miles a day.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:51 PM on December 23, 2011

Stress reduction is key. What are your stressors in life? Eliminate them or reduce them.

You've listed at least two stressors: the alcohol and the weight. Try reducing those.
posted by dfriedman at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2011

I have hypertension and my understanding, put simply, is that if the hypertension is caused mainly by external factors (like stress or weight gain) then removal of those factors will usually cause the BP to revert to normal. Otherwise you're kind of stuck with it.

The family history is not encouraging but it might also be worth looking for physical factors like fatty or inflamed liver.
posted by epo at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2011

My husband's blood pressure reduced drastically when he began a C25K program. And he needed that structure to make him start a consistent cardio program now that his youthful days of soccer playing are behind him.
posted by Kronur at 3:08 PM on December 23, 2011

What does he eat besides the fruits and vegetables? When I eat too many carbs, or anything cured (cheese, like asiago, is the worst), my blood pressure goes up a lot. If it's been up for a few days, I start feeling awful.

Also, how is his sleep? Apparently, sleep deficit and/or sleep apnea is really bad for the BP.
posted by gjc at 3:11 PM on December 23, 2011

Mr. Sunny takes medication, but one food item that has helped in addition is celery. YMMV
posted by annsunny at 3:30 PM on December 23, 2011

Not only reduce sodium intake - I mean drastically reduce it, which means zero fast food, no prepackaged meals, shifting to MSG, etc. etc. - but also increasing your water consumption to at least 8 glasses a day. Beyond that you may need BP medication.
posted by squorch at 3:44 PM on December 23, 2011

Omega 3 Fish Oil has lowered my blood pressure from scary high to low normal. It only took a couple of weeks too. No diet changes or exercise. I was flabbergasted. It's been sitting around 120 over 68 for months now after being 140/98ish previously. My doctor was amazed. He had been trying to get me to take a med but now it's not needed.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:49 PM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hi picapica,
I have anecdotally heard that donating blood for men is good for their heart health - although a quick google-fu says studies are prone to bias, and it has more to do with iron build up rather than blood pressure. So perhaps proceed with caution and altruism as a primary reason, but someone more medically trained might provide some insight. I don't want to spread something false.

The biggest thing I think, is that your husband has to change his palate for food. If your husband is used to processed, cured, super sweet, super salty, rich type of textures in his food, he'll always crave that and foods that aren't like that will taste bland or off.

If he is willing to put in two weeks to eat food he has no interest in, it's good for him, and it will re-adjust his palate so he will crave the other stuff a lot less and enjoy the healthy stuff a lot more. replace salt and sweet flavours with spices instead.

o also, the part that tends to slow me down in weightloss is social expectations - people are nice, they know i like sweets, so they offer me sweets, which is a well meaning gesture and whether I want the sweets or not, it's the gesture that's difficult to turn down. So make sure his family and friends aren't tempting him into bad habits that way.

Of course, do the cardio. It doesn't have to be sweating to the 80s on a boring treadmill (I hate that), but walking to the grocery store even, biking to work, or having a stroll after dinner instead of flipping on the telly - this will help tremendously. And also, cut the alcohol where possible, lighter sort of alcohol drinks, or look for a replacement social drink entirely. Lastly, only keep healthy stuff in the house.

Good luck!
posted by joannqy at 4:05 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dad's doctor told him to stop drinking fruit juices from concentrate (specifically OJ), and his dropped significantly.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:47 PM on December 23, 2011

Alcohol is a huge factor. It's super-caloric, so he won't be able to lose weight if he's drinking 3-5 drinks a day. Ever. Even if he does a lot of cardio.

I'm vegan, so I say go vegetarian or vegan, keeps the excess carbs and alcohol in check and watch his health miraculous improve. He doesn't need to exercise much at all if he watches his diet carefully.
posted by devymetal at 4:49 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

also, the part that tends to slow me down in weightloss is social expectations - people are nice, they know i like sweets, so they offer me sweets, which is a well meaning gesture and whether I want the sweets or not, it's the gesture that's difficult to turn down. So make sure his family and friends aren't tempting him into bad habits that way.

This, so much. Know why I've gained back all that weight that I kept off for 5 years? Because well-meaning people keep giving me cheesy casseroles and sweets, and acting insulted or sarcastic if I don't eat them. ("Oh, right forgot about PCup's diet" *rolls eyes*.) It's 20 times worse when you live with the perpetrator. Not to say that you're the cause, but if your husband gets interested in dieting, try to be supportive 100% of the time, even if you think his diet is misguided. I see a lot of people undercut their spous's diets with "love" in food form.
posted by PCup at 5:15 PM on December 23, 2011

Yoga's very good for this.
posted by Corvid at 5:28 PM on December 23, 2011

I found that after I quit HFCS, I no longer craved really sweet things. I lost weight when I stopped HFCS. It can't hurt.
posted by 6:1 at 6:09 PM on December 23, 2011

Cut out the alcohol and lose weight. If he's drinking and not doing hardly any cardio, things aren't going to change.

There really aren't any magic pills... other than the Omega3 Fish Oil mentioned above. That stuff tastes rank (fish burps, ewwww!) but it also helps lower cholesterol IMO.
posted by matty at 6:25 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I struggle with LOW blood pressure, and have found that too much garlic puts me right to sleep (by lowering my BP into the very low zone). Sad for my addiction to roasted garlic, good for you if it has the same effect (they sell tablets if you don't like it in food form).
posted by availablelight at 6:45 PM on December 23, 2011

No juice, no red meat, no cold cuts or processed meats, no cheese whiz, no extra salt, and no processed foods really, lots of walking to and from work, and having a job you enjoy have done it for me.
posted by furtive at 6:50 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Intense cardio three times a week at the gym, getting my BMI below 25 (that's 210 lbs for my 6'5" frame). That was really hard to maintain, but I was able to delay starting medication for 10 years. I eventually did have to go on medication.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:08 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

For reference, what's your husband's blood pressure at the moment?
posted by killdevil at 7:26 PM on December 23, 2011

CQ10 and Vit D? Might see where that takes him if he doesn't want to do the statins. Of course, a change in diet is recommending but this is obvious. Kill the processed food and knock out all sodas. Replace them with Green Tea and good old water.
posted by bkeene12 at 9:00 PM on December 23, 2011

I've been practicing medicine for 15 years. I've recently normalized my blood pressure and sugar by eating right and exercising. I've lost 30 pounds since August on a paleolithic diet.

High blood pressure is a complex phenomenon. Many factor influence blood pressure. In terms of diet, salt is usually the most important. Not adding salt to food is important, but most people get most of their salt by eating processed foods. I suggest you look at the paleolithic diet (PDF). Note that a "vegetarian" diet that includes a lot of bread-type foods isn't going to help you lose weight. You need to focus on vegetables (other than potatoes and corn).

Regular exercise is essential. Bear in mind that our paleo ancestors walked 5-10 miles a day. They also lifted, carried, climbed, stretched, leaped, and did whatever else was necessary to secure their sustenance and protection. Expect to start seeing a drop in blood pressure about a month after you begin exercise regularly.

For those overweight, high blood pressure may be due in part to obstructive sleep apnea. The cardinal symptoms of OSA are snoring and daytime (especially late afternoon) fatigue.

3-5 alcoholic drinks a day will definitely raise BP. Two should be the limit. If you can't limit yourself to two, you shouldn't drink at all.
posted by neuron at 9:29 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've lowered mine through mostly paleo eating and exercise (mostly lifting).

I am 28, male, 5'9" 167 lbs. A year and a half ago, my resting BP was in the neighborhood of 140/88. Today, it is more like 122/72 and I am virtually always normotensive in the mornings. When I am worked up or just sat down from physical activity, systolic can spike to the 140s or even 150, but diastolic remains normal more often than not. The first real drop came at a time when my fatty meat consumption was higher than ever before - fructose is one of your biggest enemies, not fat or cholesterol.

I'd first recommend CoQ-10 and garlic; other supplements to try can include hibiscus tea and Vitamin D. Less well established are lycopene and magnesium (but most people should supplement mag and D anyways). I've recently started doing cold showers, but I don't know yet what effect that will have. It may be a source of cardiovascular conditioning along with exercise.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:50 PM on December 23, 2011

anecdata: my husband's blood pressure improved significantly after he got a CPAP for his apnea. Does your husband snore?
posted by elizeh at 10:59 PM on December 23, 2011

See above comment by elizeh.
Overweight? Does he snore? Read up on obstructive sleep apnea. If he has symptoms concerning for it, consider a sleep study, which may lead to use of a CPAP machine.

About to head to work, so time is short. Will say OSA is tied to a lot of medical issues medium and long-term, and people often lose weight through treatment of it.

Alcohol can worsen OSA.

The rest I won't address or comment on.
posted by herrdoktor at 4:14 AM on December 24, 2011

More anecdata: my mother-in-law had to have a kidney removed due to cancer and her blood pressure dropped to normal one month later after having had super high blood pressure treated by medicine for 5-6 years which is the same time estimated as how long the kidney tumor was there.

Later a health care professional told me that kidney issues should be fully screened when blood pressure goes high.
posted by kimmae at 9:39 AM on December 24, 2011

You might want to look at the DASH diet, which is low sodium but also low in processed foods, high in fruit, veg, and nuts, etc. There are a lot of meal plans, snack ideas, and online publications, and since the research was conducted by the US government, most of the information is available for free online.
posted by bbq_ribs at 10:10 AM on December 24, 2011

I put a pillow under the foot end of my mattress to raise my feet when I sleep. Worked like magic.
posted by tel3path at 4:58 PM on December 24, 2011

Get a cat or a dog, but he has to care for it and bond with it exclusively.
posted by Ardiril at 5:43 PM on December 24, 2011

For me, this worked:

Avoid foods that cause bad inflammation, such as grains (including corn), sugar, and legumes.
Avoid processed foods
Get plenty of sleep.
I'm sure exercise helps too (simple exercises such as walking), but I do not exercise (ever).

I eat vegetables and fruits, lots of fatty cuts of meat, including their fats, fish, and eggs.
Contrary to medical advice, I eat plenty of salt (Redmond Real Salt and such), but that's OK considering I don't consume sodium from processed foods.

Regarding weight loss: I've lost 15 pounds since May (unintentionally) since starting to eat like this. Probably have 10 more to go. Your husband would probably lose weight much faster than I did.

Try it for two weeks.
When I slip and start eating flour and processed foods, I swell up, can't breathe at night, and blood pressure is very high.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:15 PM on December 25, 2011

With a pressure of 220 over 180 I used an ace blocker for a couple of weeks until I could get hold of Muktavati, an ayurvedic medicine which I usedcfor one year, seven years ago, and have been stable 135 over 70 ever since. Some people get nasal congestion, I never did, and you don't need to keep taking it, just take it until you're cured - ie stable for a few months. I've never taken it since and never needed to.
posted by nickji at 5:25 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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