12 simple steps to lower your blood pressure safelyHave you been seeking alternatives to medicines to lower your blood pressure?

Hypertension is a very common medical problem, and there are very effective medications available to treat elevated blood pressure, but most people would prefer to avoid taking prescription drugs whenever possible.

A recent Journal of the American College of Cardiology study discovered an excellent reason for patients to seek out other options, based on an extensive review of some 400,000 patient records at Kaiser Permanente Southern California who were taking medications for hypertension.

Being overtreated or undertreated with medications above or below a “normal” range of 130-139 systolic pressure and 60-69 diastolic blood pressure increased a patient’s chances of death or the development of kidney failure.

Too Much or Too Little

“Physicians have often emphasized the need to bring a patient’s blood pressure down as low as possible for the best outcomes,” said lead study author Dr. John Sim. “However, the findings of our study suggest that treating patients with high blood pressure too aggressively may potentially lead to poor health outcomes.

“Through personalized treatment plans, we can minimize the lifestyle burden on patients and improve the safety of their treatment regimens, while reducing the cost to both patients and the health care system as a whole.”

A third of all Americans suffers from high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health, amounting to nearly $100 billion spent on medications, services and missed workdays.

However, there are alternatives that can lessen your dependence on so many medications while being just as effective. Try these 12 simple steps to lower your blood pressure safely. (Any lifestyle alterations you make should always be discussed beforehand with and monitored by your doctor.)

The Top 12

1. Get moving with an exercise plan. Starting slowly by investing two days a week on activity is a good place to start, according to Men’s Fitness.

2. Find ways to better handle the stressors in your life, such as learning meditation or taking a yoga class.

3. Cut down on your body’s intake of salt by skipping extra condiments and limiting your intake of processed and fast foods to a minimum.

4. The best pathway to better health is exercising along with eating a better diet, rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and potassium that can reduce the damaging effects of sodium on your blood pressure.

5. Exposure to secondhand smoke along with smoking increases your risk of atherosclerosis, building up the fatty substances in your arteries that elevate your risk of death, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). This is one case in which you win by quitting something.

6. Because excess belly fat is a major contributor to hypertension, maintaining a body weight closer to your body mass index (BMI) is very important.

Too Much Everything!

7. Check with your doctor about all the medicines you’re taking that can elevate your blood pressure or create other health problems. Over-the-counter meds containing licorice root, ginseng and ephedra can cause problems, too.

8. Are you drinking a lot of caffeinated coffee, tea and soft drinks? Limit your intake of caffeine, considered by many to be the most popular drug in the world.

9. Limit your consumption of alcohol to a moderate, daily amount based on your gender (one drink for women and two for men).

10. Did you know the stress associated with visiting your doctor may be enough to elevate your blood pressure to hypertensive levels? Wirecutter offers great guidance on how to choose a home blood pressure monitor that will help you track your numbers more accurately every day.

11. Eating a small amount of minimally processed, flavanol-rich dark chocolate every day not only helps to lower your blood pressure, but the yummy brown stuff also interacts with the good bacteria in your gut to produce anti-inflammatory compounds.

The Probiotic Treatment

12. Taking a daily probiotic may lower your blood pressure, according to a recent study in the AHA journal, Hypertension.

Based on an analysis of nine studies examining the effect of probiotics on 543 patients with elevated or normal blood pressure readings, taking a probiotic decreased the systolic (top) number by some 3.5 milliliters and diastolic (bottom) blood pressure by 2.38 milliliters.

Patients who benefited the most took a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic for at least two months.

Each timed-release capsule of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic contains 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) and 10 strains of bacteria that benefit your health in a growing number of ways.