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Treating Hypertension 'Naturally'

High blood pressure treatment isn't limited to drugs. Lower blood pressure naturally. Natural treatments such as meditation and diet can have a significant effect.

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Schneider is conducting a study on the use of TM in the prevention of high blood pressure in African Americans (a population at significant risk for high blood pressure). The study is not yet complete, but preliminary evidence indicates that TM is useful for high blood pressure treatment and prevention, too.

Learning TM is not difficult, says Schneider, but it should be learned from a qualified instructor. "You need someone there to guide you, and to give you feedback," he says. "Otherwise, you won't get the full effect." To find an instructor near you, call 1-888-LEARN-TM.

TM is not the only non-drug approach to high blood pressure treatment. The role of diet comes into play, too, says Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. Of these therapies, most are related to diet and include reducing your salt intake, drinking alcohol in moderation, increasing your potassium intake, and overall, eating a healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

Most evidence to date indicates that a diet high in salt can have an adverse effect on blood pressure, says Appel. Recent studies have also shown that a reduced salt diet can prevent high blood pressure in persons at risk for the condition, can help control high blood pressure in elderly persons who are on blood pressure medication, and can potentially prevent heart problems in overweight individuals.

According to Appel, salt intake should be limited to 2,400 mg per day; less sodium will reduce blood pressure even more in many people. To reduce the amount of salt you consume, the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute suggests these tips:

  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned no-salt-added vegetables.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed foods.
  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasonings in cooking and at the table.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
  • Choose "convenience" foods that are lower in sodium. Limit frozen dinners, pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings.
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some of the sodium.
  • When available, buy low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods.
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.

The NHLBI also suggests eating at least 3,500 mg of potassium a day, from foods such as yogurt, cantaloupe, spinach, and bananas. Potassium may help rid the body of too much sodium by acting as a diuretic.

Chiropractor Peter Cox, director of the Chiropractic Care Center of Charlotte in North Carolina, suggests chiropractic therapy as another means of controlling stress, and by extension, blood pressure.

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