Blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the most prevalent vascular diseases worldwide. Elevated blood pressure increases risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. If you have elevated blood pressure and want to avoid a lifetime of medication, there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make now to reduce your blood pressure without prescription medications.
For adults over the age of 50, research findings show, the risks of developing cardiovascular disease doubles for every 20 points systolic pressure goes up and for every 10 points diastolic pressure goes up. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89. It is meant to identify adults who are at high risk for developing hypertension. Luckily, many with high blood pressure fall into the prehypertension to moderate range and blood pressure can be brought under control with diet and lifestyle changes. In fact, non-drug therapies are preferred over medications to treat borderline to moderate hypertension since many of these medications have significant risks associated with taking them such as fatigue, headaches and impotence.
Lifestyle factors that can contribute to elevated blood pressure include, coffee consumption, alcohol intake, and lack of consistent physical activity, stress, and smoking cigarettes. Dietary factors that have been found to influence the development of hypertension are high-salt and sugar intake, low intake of essential fatty-acids, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. The biggest contributing factor though is obesity, so achieving your ideal body weight is the single-most important thing you could do to avoid developing severe hypertension.
Reduce salt and sugar intake by reducing consumption of processed foods and incorporating more “whole” foods. The large amount of salt in the American diet, an estimated 6 to 15 grams of salt per day, is largely a result of increased processed food intake.
Increase your potassium intake- Research has shown that reducing sodium intake alone does not have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure, but rather low sodium intake and high potassium intake is more effective. To boost potassium levels, increase intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The DASH diet study has shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and foods with reduced saturated fat and total fat can lower blood pressure substantially.
Eat more celery– Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that the compound 3-n-butyl phthalide, found in celery can lower blood pressure 12-14%. To use celery therapeutically, adults should eat 4 ribs of celery daily.
Incorporate more of these foods- Nuts and seeds for the essential fatty acid content, garlic and onions for their sulfur-containing compounds, cold water fish like salmon or mackerel, green leafy vegetables for their calcium and magnesium, whole grains and legumes for their fiber, and foods high in vitamin C like citrus fruits and broccoli.
Try Honey water- According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, honey water helps to reduce cholesterol, maintains vasodilation, and helps to regulate blood pressure. To make honey water, add 1 teaspoon of honey and 5 to 10 drops of apple cider vinegar to a cup of hot water, drink first thing in the morning.
Relax- Tension and stress are major contributing factors to high blood pressure. Learn deep breathing techniques, meditate, or try yoga. When combined with dietary interventions, stress reduction is an important component in a natural blood-pressure lowering regime.
Consistent Physical Activity-Engage in regular aerobic physical activity, like brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If your blood pressure is elevated you should not engage in weight lifting or vigorous exercise without guidance from a physician.
Limit alcohol consumption-limiting alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women has also been shown effective in reducing blood pressure.
For Mild Hypertension:
Vitamin C: 500-1000 mg three times per day
Vitamin E: 400-800 IU per day
Magnesium: 800-1200 mg per day
Flaxseed oil: 1 tbsp. per day
For Moderate Hypertension:
Include the recommendations for mild hypertension listed above as well as:
Coenzyme Q10: 50 mg two to three times a day
Hawthorn Extract: (10% procyanidins or 1.8% vitexin-4’-rhamnoside) 100-250 mg per day
Follow these guidelines for one to three months. If blood pressure has not dropped below 140/105, you will need to consult your physician to select appropriate medications. If a prescription drug is necessary to treat your hypertension, calcium-channel blockers or ACE-inhibitors appear to be the safest choice.
©Ellice Campbell 2013