After slowly freeing myself from my ineffective blood pressure medicine without physician's supervision (to the dismay of my friend the emergency room nurse, who mordantly jokes about saving me a spot in the stroke treatment center), I have been faithfully, even obsessively, exercising and watching my diet. My blood pressure has eased to a moderate pre-hypertensive level, not optimal yet but well below the danger zone. I had expected to continue a gradual descent to the "normal" reading of 120/80 over the coming months. However, upon taking a blood pressure measurement this morning, I found that I had made a surprising descent all the way to "normal" overnight.
What caused such a significant reduction in blood pressure? The previous night had been typical of my routine, with one notable exception: my younger son and I had made chicken fajitas and added some very hot Hatch chiles.
I checked the internet to discover whether hot peppers or their active ingredient capsaicin are known to reduce blood pressure. I found this blurb on the Scientific American website: Rats with high blood pressure benefited from a long-term diet rich in capsaicin, which gives the heat to hot peppers and starts a chemical sequence that relaxes blood vessels.
Perhaps I am more ratlike than I had thought.