Lower blood pressure naturally
With high blood pressure, many patients resort to antihypertensive medication. However, a healthy lifestyle is just as effective as antihypertensive drugs. However, a bit of discipline is a prerequisite. On the occasion of the Heart Weeks 2021, an expert from the German Heart Foundation explains how lowering blood pressure can work without medication.
Hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease in Germany. Over 30 percent of all people in this country have high blood pressure. This increases the risk of damage to the heart and blood vessels and thus also heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Those affected often resort to antihypertensive drugs to get their high blood pressure under control; according to the German Heart Foundation, natural methods are similarly effective.
Healthy lifestyle as an alternative to antihypertensive drugs
“Many hypertensive patients often find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle consistently enough,” explains cardiologist Professor Dr. med. Bernhard Schwaab from the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation. A healthy lifestyle with exercise, relaxation and a healthy diet is the basis of high-pressure therapy. The number of drugs and their dosage can be massively influenced by lifestyle.
Physical activity is one of the top priorities as a protective factor against hypertension. “Regular exercise effectively combines stress relief, reduces the desire for a cigarette and increases energy consumption,” adds Professor Schwaab, who is also the chief doctor of the Curschmann Clinic on Timmendorfer Strand. The heart expert explains in five steps what people with hypertension or at risk should consider when they decide to lower their blood pressure naturally.
The five-step plan for lowering blood pressure naturally
According to Professor Dr. med. Bernhard Schwaab People with high blood pressure, risk groups, but also healthy people who want to protect themselves against high blood pressure can achieve a natural lowering of blood pressure.
1. Move more and sit less
Regular exercise has numerous cardiovascular benefits. Physical activity protects against high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, for example, and at the same time has a positive effect on brain activity and metabolism. “Regular physical activity lowers the systolic (upper) blood pressure by up to 10 mmHg – just like a drug,” emphasizes Professor Schwaab.
However, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from the effects, says the cardiologist: “After a long break, you should start with physical activity that is fun or that you know from before and that is also suitable from a medical point of view if you have high blood pressure . “
How much exercise is recommended per week?
According to the heart expert, a 30-minute stamina exercise five days a week with moderate stamina is ideal. Activities such as easy jogging, fast walking, cycling, hiking, swimming or dancing are well suited for this.
But even shorter sports units of 10 to 15 minutes have an antihypertensive effect. “It is important to be able to do physical activity without shortness of breath, without pain in the chest and joints,” explains Schwaab. The cardiologist advises those who do most of their work while sitting, should occasionally incorporate small movement units. “Hypertensive patients with secondary diseases such as heart and kidney weakness, after a heart attack or stroke should discuss their resilience with their doctor,” emphasizes Schwaab. This also applies to healthy people who have taken a long break from exercising.
2. Quit smoking
According to the German Heart Foundation, smoking is one of the main risk factors for all cardiovascular diseases and for a large number of cancers. This also applies to passive smoking. “Anyone who quits smoking can gain three to six kilograms in the first three months,” warns Professor Schwaab. He advises you to accept this weight gain first, and then to reduce the weight again through gentle exercise programs and a change in diet.
“The replacement of cigarettes with so-called vaporizer systems (e-cigarettes) can no longer be classified as harmless from a current scientific point of view,” is the assessment of the German Heart Foundation. In general, the motto is: “Quitting smoking or not even starting is always worthwhile!” You can find tips on how to stop smoking in the article “Quit smoking“Or on the Website of the German Heart Foundation.
3. Healthy diet with little salt and sugar
Professor Dr. med. Bernhard Schwaab and many other heart specialists advise you to follow the example of traditional Mediterranean cuisine. “The Mediterranean diet relies on fruit and vegetables, salad, legumes, less meat, but more fish, on olive and rapeseed oil and on herbs instead of salt,” summarizes the cardiologist. As the expert explains, salt binds water in the body, which can promote high blood pressure.
In particular, the daily consumption of sufficient vegetables and dietary fiber can contribute to avoiding obesity due to the relatively low energy content. Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for high blood pressure (see: High blood pressure: the main causes and prevention methods).
One of the basic rules of a healthy heart diet is to replace table salt with herbs, to avoid adding salt and adding sugar, and to remove sweetened drinks from the shopping list as far as possible. Caution should also be exercised with ready meals and highly processed products. Many of these items contain large amounts of sugar and salt – even in products you might not have guessed it to be, such as yogurt, salad dressings, ketchup, and sausages. “A look at the description of the ingredients helps to avoid sugar and salt,” advises Schwaab.
4. Reduce belly fat and excess weight
Exercise and a healthy diet usually lead to a healthy normal weight being achieved in the long term. This also includes limiting alcohol consumption, because alcohol is high in calories and, if consumed regularly, can lead to weight gain, which indirectly promotes an increase in blood pressure.
According to the German Heart Foundation, a body mass index (BMI) of 20 to 25 kg / m² should be aimed for for people under 60 years of age. Older people over 60 years of age should have a slightly higher weight, but a BMI of 30 kg / m² should not be exceeded.
Weight loss is worth it
A weight reduction of around five kilograms reduces the systolic blood pressure by up to 5 mmHg on average and the diastolic (lower) blood pressure by 3 to 4 mmHg. “These are values that can definitely be compared with the effects of drugs,” explains Schwaab. Another important value is the waist size, which should be less than 102 centimeters for men and less than 88 centimeters for women.
Belly fat is particularly problematic
Fat deposits in the abdominal area, which are medically referred to as “visceral obesity”, are particularly problematic because the abdominal fat produces hormones and inflammatory messenger substances. Among other things, this has a direct effect on blood pressure. “Every kilo and every centimeter less has a positive effect on high blood pressure and sugar,” explains Schwaab.
5. Provide relaxation
Many people’s everyday lives are stressful, both at work and in their private lives. Chronic stress ensures a constant release of stress hormones, which increase blood sugar and pressure, increase insulin release and make the heart beat faster. But it is not the stress alone that makes you sick – but the lack of relaxation.
Stress armors the body very well for acute problem situations. However, the body also needs periods of rest so that the organism is not under constant pressure. If relaxation is not achieved, there is a risk of inflammatory reactions that increase the risk of numerous diseases, including diabetes, stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure.
“Therefore, pay attention to a balance between stress and relaxation: preferably with activities that let you forget stress such as making music, reading, painting, dancing, cooking with friends, playing with the children, joining a club or going to concerts and sporting events together” , recommends the German Heart Foundation. Targeted relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, yoga, qigong or tai chi are also very helpful for relaxation.
The weaker self as a constant companion
The cardiologist points out that the famous weaker self is a constant companion for many people. In order not to lose the motivation for lifestyle changes, it makes sense to break old habits. “It is often helpful to set up fixed anchor points in one’s living environment: the regular running or heart group in the club, cooking together with family or friends at home and for smokers exchanging ideas with ex-smokers in the self-help group”, are the tips by Professor Schwaab. (vb)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
Diploma-Editor (FH) Volker Blasek
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.