You know that maintaining a healthy weight and cutting back on salt, alcohol and stopping smoking can help to lower your blood pressure - but did you know that drinking beetroot juice each day and having a daily nap can also help? Read on for 10 surprising ways to lower your blood pressure...
See also: Three things NEVER to do if you think you're having a heart attack
See also: New scan can help heart attacks and stroke
1. Squeeze a rubber ball
According to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, people performing handgrip exercises for eight weeks lowered their systolic blood pressure by 15 points and their diastolic pressure by five. Experts say that the blood-pressure response to grip training is greater than to aerobic exercise - all it takes is two minutes of squeezing, four times a day.
2. Snack on yogurt
Eating five or more servings of yoghurt a week can lower a woman's risk of developing high blood pressure by 20%, according to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine. Experts believe that the calcium found in yogurt makes blood vessels more supple, which keeps pressure low. Those who ate yoghurt and a diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans were 31% less likely to develop hypertension.
It may not be to everyone's taste, but drinking beetroot juice every day has been shown to reduce blood pressure in older adults, according to scientists at Wake Forest Medical Center in the US. It's thought that the nitrates in beetroot juice help boost oxygen levels in areas of the body that are lacking.
4. Do yoga classes
Research shows that you can achieve up to a 10-point drop in blood pressure from regular aerobic exercise. While any kind of cardio exercise is good, yoga may be of particular benefit. Researchers in Sweden found that people who did yoga once a week saw a significant drop in blood pressure after 12 weeks. Try doing a yoga DVD once a week at home.
CHECK YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AT HOME:
HoMedics Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor, £24.99, from Boots
5. Cut back on sugar
You don't need to cut calories to lower your blood pressure – simply eating less sugar (without reducing your overall calorie intake) can lower your blood pressure in just 10 days. Scientists in the US found that when obese children cut back on sugar, their blood pressure dropped dramatically – even though they continued to eat calorie-dense foods such as pasta and pizza.
6. Have forty winks
There's lots of evidence to suggest that having an afternoon siesta is good for your health. Researchers in Greece measured the blood pressure of 400 middle-aged men and women and found that those who had forty winks had blood pressure readings that were around 5% lower than those who stayed awake all day.
7. Eat more blueberries
It's not just yoghurt and beetroot juice that's worth adding to your diet. Eating blueberries every day may reduce blood pressure, according to a study of post-menopausal women published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
8. Listen to classical music
A study from Oxford University study found that listening to classical music can lower your blood pressure. Slow music with a 10-second repetitive cycle was the most calming because it matches the body's natural 10-second waves of blood pressure control. Apparently Nessun Dorma by Puccini and Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio are ideal.
9. Eat more meat – and cut back on carbs
Researchers in Australia found that people with high blood pressure who replaced 8% of their daily calories from bread, cereal, potatoes, or pasta with lean red meat experienced a four-point drop in their systolic blood pressure in just two months. Arginine, an amino acid in red meat, may help dilate blood vessels, lowering blood pressure while cutting back on carbs lowers blood sugar and makes the body more efficient at burning fat.
10. Clean the house
Researchers gave volunteers blood pressure monitors and asked them to clean the house. Within two days their blood pressure fell an average of 13 points. The study, which was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that doing daily chores lowers blood pressure not only because of the exercise. It seems that having a clean house may reduce psychological stress, according to the study authors.