You’re eating healthy meals and exercising more, yet are your blood pressure numbers still higher than you’d like? The problem (and the easy fix!) could be:
Your sore spots. Daily aches and pains can double your risk of high blood pressure, British research shows. The reason? Even if you try to ignore the discomfort, chronic pain affects your nervous system, triggering the release of a steady trickle of the pressure-raising stress hormone cortisol. An easy Rx: Three studies suggest that daily 900 milligram to 1,000 milligram doses of boswellia, an Ayurvedic herb, reduces even chronic pain as effectively as ibuprofen and similar painkillers, providing pain relief that calms your nervous system and trimming 10 points off your blood pressure in one month. One option: Nature’s Way’s Boswellia (60 tablets, $12.38). Important: Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Your sunblock. Of course, it’s smart to protect your skin with sunblock when you’re outdoors, but if you always use it, it could be the reason your blood pressure’s been rising. “Your skin needs sun exposure to make vitamin D3, a nutrient that helps keeps your arteries healthy and flexible and your blood pressure low,” explained Michael Holick, M.D., author of The UV Advantage. In fact, his research suggests simply being low in vitamin D3 triples your odds of having tough-to-treat high blood pressure. An easy Rx: Spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun, without sunblock, each day. Even easier: Correct a D3 shortfall by taking 3,000 IU of D3 daily, Cornell University experts said.
Your stove. Hot, cooked meals are comforting, but if all of the fruits and vegetables you eat have been cooked or canned, you could be missing out on folate, a B vitamin that relaxes and opens arteries but is destroyed during heating or processing. Restore your folate level, and you’ll reduce your risk of high blood pressure by 46 percent! An easy Rx: You don’t have put away your pots and pans to fix this problem. Just eating one-and-a-half cups of raw citrus or leafy greens daily should trim six points or more off your blood pressure in three months, Harvard scientists said.
Low-fat meals. Steering clear of fried and fast foods is wise, but avoiding natural fats, like those in avocados, coconut oil, fish, nuts, and whole milk, could send your blood pressure up eight points or more, revealed research in the journal Diabetic Medicine. These healthy fats help lower your pancreas’ production of insulin, a hormone that tightens arteries if it stays elevated for too long, said study author Mark Daly, M.D. An easy Rx: Eat a few ounces of fish, seafood, avocados or nuts daily. Their healing omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are shown to lower insulin and blood pressure for 77 percent of patients in two months.
Your blood pressure meds. You’d think taking a drug to lower your blood pressure would, well, lower your blood pressure. Yet Albert Einstein College of Medicine experts revealed that taking beta blockers or ACE inhibitors can actually make the readings of some folks shoot up nine points or more. This surprising side effect occurs when those normally helpful meds disrupt kidney function, increasing their production of the enzymes that raise blood pressure. An easy Rx: If you’ve been taking a beta blocker or ACE inhibitor and your pressure won’t drop or is rising, ask your doctor about switching to a diuretic or calcium channel blocker. These meds lower blood pressure by flushing out excess fluids without tinkering with kidney function—the way that beta blockers and ACE inhibitors sometimes do.