At least 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day—like biking, walking, or using a treadmill—helps strengthen your heart, making it work more efficiently, which means less pressure on your arteries. Plus, exercise is crucial for another reason: It helps you watch your weight, a key to blood pressure control. University of South Carolina researchers found that even tiny increases in body mass index (BMI) lead to big jumps in hypertension risks.
A good heart start
Many diet and lifestyle changes can improve your blood pressure. Some are tried and true, and others are new—and delicious! These steps can help—whether you’re healthy or already on blood pressure medication.
Eat your minerals
You probably know about going easy on the salt, but don’t do the same with potassium or magnesium. A recent research review in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that upping potassium and magnesium intake—by eating more fruits and veggies—can help lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by two to six points, especially when you also lay off the salt. Acorn squash, bananas, and dates are a few great sources of potassium. And spinach is high in magnesium.
Feed a chocolate craving
A regular-size dark chocolate bar (about 1.5 ounces) or a cup of hot cocoa every day can reduce blood pressure by about three points, a new study by Yale University researchers says. Antioxidants in chocolate are thought to be the key, although the link isn’t certain.
Listen and let go
Just 30 minutes of classical music every day combined with slow abdominal breathing may lower mild high blood pressure by up to four points, according to a study presented at a recent American Society of Hypertension annual meeting.
Also, transcendental meditation may have as much of an impact for people with hypertension as taking a second medicine, a University of Kentucky research review shows. Learn how to do it here.
Open a Cabernet
And have one glass. A study out of Harvard found that a little alcohol can lower women’s risk of high blood pressure. But any more than one drink a day ups risks for a number of health problems, including breast cancer.