4 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Updated: Nov 5, 2017
Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Healthy Questions Answered.
Side Effects to Lowering your Blood Pressure Include: Better Health and Lasting Weight Loss!
If you want to lower your blood pressure and minimize your medications, you’ve come to the right place. In my 10+ years as a cardiologist, I've learned what works best for lowering blood pressure and in this article, I will give you effective ways to lower your blood pressure without taking more medication.
Let’s start with the story of a patient of mine.
John is 46 and came to see me because of high blood pressure. He was frustrated with his treatment because his blood pressure was still too high despite taking 4 different blood pressure medications. In addition, he felt miserable. He had no energy or sex drive and he thinks the cause is his medications.
John is a busy executive who works long hours and travels frequently. He rarely exercises because he doesn’t have time. John eats on the go, typically fast food or packaged food and sleeps 5 or 6 hours a night. He describes his stress level as “high”.
His primary question was what medications will improve his blood pressure.
He was surprised when I told him the medications were not his problem.
High Blood Pressure is Really Common
If you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), you are not alone. Over 60% of adults have higher than normal blood pressure (greater than 120/80 mm Hg).
The reason doctors are concerned with high blood pressure is because it increases the risk for several deadly health problems including:
· Heart attack
· Heart failure
· Kidney failure
We spend more than $50 billion a year on high blood pressure and it contributes to 1,000 deaths per day (about 1 every 90 seconds) in the US.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is there is hope!
High blood pressure is treatable, but not just with medications. In fact, you have a lot more control over your blood pressure than you realize. In this article I will explain how a few simple steps can lower your blood pressure even more effectively than medication.
Blood Pressure Medications
Blood pressure medications are among the most commonly prescribed drugs because they lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death in those with high blood pressure. Despite these proven benefits, most people aren’t enthusiastic about taking medication. Up to 50% of blood pressure medications are not taken as intended, most commonly because of potential side effects.
Fortunately, if you are one of those people who want to minimize your medications, there are other treatments that are effective. This is not to say that all blood pressure meds should be avoided. Sometimes they are necessary. For example, if you have diabetes, you may benefit from blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors even if your blood pressure is normal. Or if you had a recent heart attack, you may benefit from a class of medications called beta-blockers. And some do everything right and STILL need blood pressure meds. For all these reasons, I strongly recommend not changing your medications without talking to your doctor.
The Patient that Changed my Practice
Like most cardiologists, I am well trained and experienced at treating high blood pressure with medications. However, a patient I saw several years ago completely changed the way I approach my patients with high blood pressure.
Don is 39-years-old. When he saw his primary doctor for a routine physical, his blood pressure was high (166/98 mm Hg). His readings at home have been high as well. He has a desk job, and sits most of the day. Don rarely exercises and attributes his recent 30-pound weight gain to frequent business dinners.
I heard his story, checked his blood pressure (high again), reviewed his test results and recommended that he start a medication. Like most of my patients, he wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea but agreed to give it a try.
He then asked if he would need to take the medication forever. I explained that a better diet, more regular physical activity and some weight loss could lower his blood pressure and MIGHT allow him to be off of the medication. He thanked me for the information and we planned to meet in 6 weeks to follow-up… but he canceled the appointment.
About a year later I ran into Don at the grocery store. I didn’t recognize him at first because he had changed. A lot! He had lost 20+ pounds through daily walks and better dietary choices. He had stopped the medication on the advice of his primary care doctor because his blood pressure was now normal. Don felt great and thanked me for helping him get his life back. I told him the truth; he’s the one who did all the work!
For several weeks, I couldn’t quit thinking about Don’s story. He showed me the power of relatively simple things like daily walks and eating a healthy diet. He proved to me that effective treatment does not necessarily mean more medication. He showed me that my patients have a lot more power over their blood pressure than I was given them credit for. It was a valuable lesson for me and changed the way I practice.
I now tell Don’s story to all of my patients with high blood pressure and the number of success stories has grown. I’ve been privileged to witness a number of remarkable transformations. People getting their health and life back doing simple, every day things just like Don did.
Recently I saw another patient, similar to Don, who was able to get off her blood pressure medications through healthier lifestyle choices. I LOVE these visits because usually my patient is very excited about the positive changes in their health and life, and she was no different. During our discussion, she asked me if I would write a book, something I’ve heard from a number of patients over the years. I made my usual excuses (“I’m too busy.”, “I’m not much of a writer.”) and she said something that stopped me in my tracks.“You have a responsibility to let people know about this.”
After significant thought, I realized she was right. I love helping my patients achieve better health and I do have a responsibility to share what I’ve learned from my successful patients. I need to let people know they don’t have to run marathons or eat perfect diets to improve their health. Almost all of my successful patients have been ordinary people, just like you and me, who have accomplished extraordinary results through simple, every day changes.
This information is even more important today because unhealthy lifestyle is now the biggest healthcare problem in our country. It is the primary cause of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure epidemics keeping us in hospitals and doctor’s offices. It decreases the quality of life and ends lives early. In fact, unhealthy lifestyle leads to more preventable deaths than any other cause, yet medicine continues to treat with more pills and procedures rather than address the underlying cause. It’s time you knew there is a better way.
Let me introduce you to the Fundamental Four.
The Fundamental Four
I help patients face their biggest health challenges on a daily basis. And I’ve been privileged to be a front row witness to the dramatic effect lifestyle change can have on health and quality of life. Over time, I’ve simplified “lifestyle change” to 4 fundamental factors most effective at improving health.
I call them the Fundamental Four.
1. Adequate sleep
2. Managing stress
3. Physically activity
4. A healthy diet
The Fundamental Four is the most powerful treatment for blood pressure I know. Patients who successfully address the Fundamental Four are my healthiest – and happiest – patients. They feel great and they’re only on medications that are absolutely necessary. And when my patients are healthy and happy, that means I’m doing my job.
The Side Effects of The Fundamental Four
1. Better blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers
2. Less heart attacks and strokes
3. Longer life
4. Less medications
5. Weight loss
6. More energy and self esteem
7. Better quality of life
8. More productivity
You get the point. There is no treatment I discuss with my patients that has as much benefit for as little risk as the Fundamental Four.
So there you have it. The Fundamental Four is the most effective treatment for high blood pressure for the majority of my patients. Ready to give it a try? Just pick the one fundamental that makes the most sense to you and start there. As you may have noticed, most of the Fundamental Four are dependent on each other and small changes in one fundamental often leads to positive changes in the others. For example, a daily walk will help you manage stress better and sleep better and better sleep will help with stress and being more active.
You’re now armed with the best information on how to lower your blood pressure naturally. And possibly take less medications. If you are interested in learning more about the Fundamental Four, check out my blog at Drhurst.org.
And the Beat Goes On,
R. Todd Hurst, MD, FACC, FASE