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Ways to lower blood pressure (besides cutting sodium)

Help improve your blood pressure with these tips

When it comes to lifestyle changes that can help improve blood pressure, sodium restriction snags the spotlight. Most experts agree that limiting sodium is a smart strategy for those looking to lower blood pressure, but it’s not the only one. Here are several other positive lifestyle changes you can make that can help improve blood pressure.

Nosh on plenty of produce

Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and rich in potassium, which offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure. Potassium-packed picks include baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, spinach, winter squash, bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, beans, and tomatoes.

Go for whole grains over refined starches

Some studies suggest that whole grains help the body hang on to potassium. You can’t go wrong with whole grains either way—you get more beneficial vitamins and nutrients when you swap out white (refined) grains for whole grains, and you’ll also feel full longer after eating them, thanks to their fiber content.

Include low-fat dairy in your diet

Calcium plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. Low-fat dairy products offer all the nutrients of full-fat varieties, but without the saturated fat and cholesterol that can raise heart-disease risk. Have low-fat milk with your cereal or oatmeal in the morning, add a cup of plain low-fat yogurt to your lunch, or have some low-fat cheese as a midafternoon snack. 

Learn to love legumes and nuts

Legumes (such as beans, lentils, and peanuts), nuts, and seeds are rich in magnesium, which contributes to maintaining healthy blood pressure. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends getting around 1 1/2 cups of legumes and 5 ounces of nuts and seeds each week. 

Savor small amounts of dark chocolate

Studies attest to the blood-pressure benefits of products made with cocoa, which contains antioxidants that activate a substance called nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels and makes it easier for blood to flow throughout your body. Make the heart-healthiest choice by opting for dark chocolate, or using cocoa powder.

Move more

Moderate exercise has been shown to improve blood pressure. National guidelines advise thirty minutes, five days a week, of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or dancing. If you don’t have thirty minutes to exercise, break your daily exercise sessions up into three ten-minute mini-workouts. Or kick up the intensity—fifteen minutes of vigorous activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, meets the guidelines, too.

Cultivate inner calm

Studies show that meditation can bring blood pressure down—probably by calming your body’s response to stress. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position, say “om,” or think spiritual thoughts. Simply tuning in to your breathing—for even ten minutes—may do the trick. Close your eyes (and the door), turn off the cell phone. Now … breathe.

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