Add these steps to your weekly routine to slash your risk of heart disease and stroke. These six all-natural tricks just may keep you out of the pharmacy. Photo by Getty Images.
Related: Discover 6 all-natural beauty fixes.
1. Lend a hand.
New research shows that helping out does more than fill you with a warm feeling; it also gives your heart a boost. Adults ages 51 to 91 who volunteered for 200 hours per year-or about 3 hours per week-lowered their risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) by 40%. Visit VolunteerMatch.org to search for an opportunity near you.
2. Eat yogurt.
People who ate at least 6 oz of lowfat yogurt every day were 31% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who ate yogurt less than once a month, according to a study. One possible reason: Yogurt's a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium, three important minerals that help regulate blood flow.
3. Walk a dog.
Owning a pet quells stress, improves your mood and increases exercise levels, all of which work together to lower blood pressure. Make time to play with Fido-at least 20 minutes a day-and commit to walking him daily. No pet? Check out a shelter (visit PetFinder.com to search for one in your area) or walk a friend's dog for similar benefits.
4. Play some tunes.
One study found that listening to relaxing music releases calming neurohormones in your body that work to lower blood pressure. The key? The music should soothe you and make you feel calmer (you may notice that your breathing and/or heart rate slows down as you hear it).
5. Drink black tea.
New research reveals that people who drank three cups of black tea daily for six months lowered their blood pressure by a small amount (researchers say that even a slight change can help decrease your risk of hypertension). Black tea contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that may help relax blood vessels and, in turn, lower your blood pressure.
6. Get your heart pumping.
It's no secret that cardiovascular activity can improve health, but the American Heart Association recently confirmed that moderate aerobic exercise (such as a brisk walk or a fitness class) can also lower blood pressure. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week.
SOURCES: Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, neuroscientist, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Krishna Sudhir, MD, PhD, consulting professor of medicine, Stanford University.