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Health News: Autumn Tips for Better Blood Pressure

From the tennis ball trick to hugging a loved one, there are many ways to lower your BP.

We love apple picking and bonfires in the crisp, cool air. But fall’s changes in temperature and barometric pressure constrict blood vessels, raising your systolic (top number) blood pressure by up to 10 points by spring. That’s unwelcome news since a spike in this number can raise stroke risk. To keep your BP healthy…

Try the tennis ball trick.

It’s no secret that brisk walking or bicycling yields blood-pressure benefits. But easy handgrip exercises are just as effective. In fact, a 2018 study in Canada found they slash blood pressure by up to 19 points in eight weeks. Flexing muscles in the hands and fingers activates the autonomic nervous system, which opens blood vessels. Though folks in the study used hand-grip devices, simply squeezing and releasing a tennis ball for eight minutes three times weekly will do the trick.

Hug a loved one.

Or stroke your dog or cat. Research conducted at the University of North Carolina suggests doing so regularly can keep blood pressure from climbing. In fact, blood-pressure readings were 12 points lower in women who embraced loved ones at least twice daily than those who hugged less often. The warm feelings generated when you show others affection lowers BP-elevating stress.

Choose the ‘old way.’

Remember when your mom used to pop popcorn on the stove? She was onto something! Research in Environmental Health Perspectives suggests popping your own corn kernels cuts your body’s levels of PFAS (chemicals used to make popcorn bags greaseproof) by up to 63 percent. That’s key, since PFAS disrupt hormones that regulate blood pressure. And in a University of Michigan study, women with lower PFAS levels cut their odds of high blood pressure by 42 percent.

Pop an ‘olive’ pill.

Taking 1,000 milligrams of olive leaf extract daily may lower BP by 11 points in two months — results on par with an Rx, a Phytomedicine study found. Olive leaf’s oleuropein and oleacein blunt the action of enzymes that narrow blood vessels. One to try: NAOMI BP Advanced (Buy from, $39).

Looking for more tips? Check out these four lifestyle swaps to lower your blood pressure, and the powers of tart cherry juice.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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