Health & Well-Being

Reducing Blood Pressure Naturally

Lifestyle changes can make a difference

High blood pressure, like stress, is one of those silent killers. In fact, it’s the leading associated cause of death and is the number one reason why people visit their doctor. So, it demands our attention.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, has a number of contributing factors. Age is one, stress is another, but there are others. A diet that is high in fats, cholesterol, and animal proteins can “clog the pipes” and lead to atherosclerosis, fatty deposits in the cardiovascular system. Or one that is high in salt can result in excessive fluid in the blood.

Human blood pressure is highly variable.  The heart expands and contracts each second, so your blood pressure is high at one moment and low in the next. That’s why there are two measurements — pressure at its highest (systolic blood pressure or the lower number), and one a moment later, when it’s lowest (diastolic, or the lower number).

Medical professionals consider your blood pressure to be “high” when either your systolic blood pressure is 140 or above, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 or above, or both. Most people with high blood pressure have a mild condition — their systolic blood pressure is between 140-159, and/or their diastolic blood pressure is between 90-99.

But you have to be careful about relying hard and fast numbers. For example, if your blood pressure is 136/88, you actually have five times the risk of stroke as compared to someone with blood pressure at 110/70. In fact, one-third of the people who die of heart attacks, strokes, and congestive heart failure have blood pressures that are below 140/90. That’s probably why the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology lowered the definition from 140/90 to 130/80.

Medical doctors rely heavily on drug therapy, making blood pressure drugs the number one prescription medication. But there are also changes you can make to your lifestyle so you might be able to rely less on pills. Some you’re familiar with, but there’s a few that might surprise you.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise makes your heart stronger and more efficient. The recommended amount is 150 minutes per week of moderate, like walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous, such as running. Strength training also helps. And doing more reduces blood pressure even further.

Reduce salt

The biggest culprits are virtually all packaged foods, bread, cold cuts, pizza, poultry, bacon, hot dogs, and soups.

Even a small reduction in the sodium can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is best for most adults.

To decrease sodium, you need to be conscious of what you’re eating. In other words, read the labels. And, of course, don’t add salt to season your food — a single teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Instead, use herbs or spices to flavor your food.

Drink less alcohol

Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure by several points, and it can reduce the effectiveness of medications you taking. A moderate amount means no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. One drink is about 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Eat more…

Berries — strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are rich in polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart.

Dark chocolate 70 percent or more, or cocoa — they’re rich in flavonoids, plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate and so lower blood pressure.

Foods that contain probiotics—consumable live bacteria—has been linked to healthier blood pressure. These include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, some cheeses (Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese), and pickles.

Eat foods that are rich in… 

Potassium — helps your body get rid of sodium and eases pressure on your blood vessels. Foods high in potassium include leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes, fruits such as melons, bananas, avocados, oranges and apricots, dairy products, tuna and salmon, nuts, and beans.

Magnesium — helps blood vessels relax, making it easier for blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains.

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