Many people think of medicine as a bitter pill. This applies specifically to high blood pressure treatment, a common condition for which medications are rampantly over-prescribed. Side effects are almost inevitable and range from merely annoying to completely debilitating.
This is a tragedy because up to 95% of high blood pressure cases could have successfully tackled with lifestyle adjustments. But doctors often lack faith that their patients will make the necessary changes and then hand out prescriptions as a matter of routine.
Many times doctors may be judging correctly about our lack of willpower. Turning over a new lead by losing weight, getting in shape and giving up junk food can seem overwhelming. Luckily there are a number of quick and easy ways to make a real start on lowering your blood pressure without drugs that are not only simple but even enjoyable:
1. Eat chocolate. This has to be top of the list and is a chocolate lover's dream. It's also surprisingly effective at lowering blood pressure. Chocolate, like tea and grapes, contains natural antioxidants called flavinoids, which are known to affect blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of flavonoids and the greater the potential effect on your blood pressure. Go for a quality rich, dark chocolate with more cocoa and less sugar. If you really need to watch the calories or if you're diabetic you can get a good sugar-free chocolate.
Why not double up the benefits with a glass of hot cocoa at bedtime? Although not as concentrated as dark chocolate, all cocoa has flavonoids. Plus it also releases endorphins in the brain that make you feel good and which, together with the calcium and magnesium in milk, calms and relaxes you for a good night's sleep – something that can further reduce high blood pressure!
2. Yes, sleep more. Insufficient sleep definitely plays a role in raising blood pressure. It's also a sign of stress, another factor in hypertension. If you're suffering from the vicious circle of chronic stress and lack of sleep it's almost sure to be affecting your blood pressure.
The answer is simply to allow more time for sleep. Different people need different amounts of sleep so it's no good to prescribe a specific amount. But if you can not fall sleep at night, sleep poorly and wake up dragging it's a sure sign you need more sleep.
And why not? Does not sleeping feel good? So ditch that last cocktail, do not eat late and hit the sack with a cup of hot cocoa!
3. Listen to music. The right kind of music, that is. Gentle, relaxing music has been clinically demonstrated to produce significant drops in blood pressure. It's not just wishful thinking. Reductions are usually temporary but using music to relax consistently can have cumulative, long-lasting effects on blood pressure.
What's more, just add a little slow breathing to your music session and you have a powerful, proven formula for lower blood pressure. Slow, gentle breathing with a long, relaxed exhale – especially when done with music – can be as effective as the most powerful blood pressure medications.
Music is something absolutely anyone can use because it's so enjoyable.
4. Laugh. Humor and laughter are some of the most powerful natural remedies known. Laughter produces endorphins, relieves stress and, like slow breathing, ends up relaxing you deep into the diaphragm where it has a positive effect on major blood vessels.
When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? If it has not been recent and often there is something missing from your life. Watch a comedy movie, connect with your kids or seek out old friends … anything for a laugh.
5. Finally you may be ready for some gentle exercise. Nobody enjoys the usual approach to getting in shape. What usually happens is you need to show your commitment and so you go all out, only to end up crippled with soreness 24 hours later and that's the last of your New Year's resolution!
On the other hand, a leisurely stroll without looking forward to the demands of the future can be truly enjoyable, and that's what it's all about for now. Enjoy the present. In fact, if you're really out of shape only gentle exercise will have a positive effect on you and your blood pressure. Other easy options include gardening, dancing, yoga or soft martial arts like Tai Chi.
Of course, anything requires getting up out of the Barco-Lounger but it's a lot easier when you do not have a punishment – and unnecessary – "work-out" ahead of you.
The point of these 5 simple and enjoyable ways to lower your blood pressure is to start some positive momentum. These methods alone may not prove the entire solution to your problem but you will almost certainly see benefits. These will encourage you to expand your efforts into further lifestyle improvements.
On the other hand, you may be surprised with the results you get from these simple methods. Slow breathing with music, for example, has been used successfully to wean people off blood pressure medications with spectacular results.
You do not have to be a saint or have iron willpower to be healthy. These five tips are a painless entry to a healthy lifestyle with a lifetime payoff.