It is estimated that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure (hypertension). It is called the “silent killer” with good reason. Most people don’t even know they have it since it does not cause any symptoms.
Your blood pressure is determined by the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Excessive pressure makes the heart work harder, increasing its demand for oxygen. If that force is high enough you will develop health problems including heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, as well as damage to the kidneys and brain. Normal blood pressure is 120 to 129 over 80 to 84, and optimal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Treatment is normally pharmaceutical drugs. However, many alternative approaches are just as effective. Part of the problem is committing to lifestyle changes. We all know what we need to do to improve our health but implementing the changes can be difficult. You can certainly be on medication for the rest of your life and for many it may be necessary. However, even those of you on medication can adopt a healthy lifestyle. You will not only lower your blood pressure, you will feel better and lessen your risk of getting other diseases. If you want to make changes to manage your blood pressure without medication please consult your doctor. First I will list some suggestions so you can start taking baby steps to not be overwhelmed. Remember small steps turn into big victories.
- Stop dieting – but do watch your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight requires a lifestyle change and losing even a few pounds can improve blood pressure.
- Caffeine can contribute to high blood pressure so be mindful of your intake.
- Alcohol can raise blood pressure so try to limit drinking.
- Exercise. This doesn’t mean working out 2 hours a day at the gym. Start walking! Even 30 little minutes a day can lower blood pressure.
- Studies have shown that meditation, yoga and breathing are extremely effective in lowering blood pressure. Give it a try!
- Americans eat way too much salt. Part of the reason is the processed food everyone eats. The salt is what makes your want more of it. Instead, eat whole foods, fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds and beans. Instead of salt flavor your food with herbs such as oregano, garlic (known for lowering blood pressure), parsley, turmeric, ginger, and the list goes on. These are great replacements for salt and they have other health benefits as well.
- Try to eat fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines. Omega-3’s are very good for the heart and reducing inflammation.
- This is a hard one for many but try to quit smoking. In addition to raising blood pressure the health risks are endless.
- If you are currently on medication talk to your doctor as to whether they can be increasing your blood pressure. Birth control pills, steroids and decongestants can also do this. Believe it or not there are also many “natural” products such as licorice and ginseng that may contribute to high blood pressure.
- Talk to your doctor about calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and Co-Q10. Deficiency of calcium and magnesium can be a contributor. A mere 500mg a day of vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure. Co-Q10 especially improves heart function and blood pressure.
- Listen to music you love.
- Be loving and kind.
- Watch funny movies or upbeat TV programs.
- Talk to people who have adopted healthy lifestyles. It always helps to be around people who have the same goals.
Most importantly remember that if you have a high blood pressure you can be playing Russian roulette with your life. You need to make a choice before it’s too late. Like many diseases this is preventable and manageable. Next time you grab that extra coffee, cigarette or McDonalds burger take a step back and make a decision to respect your body. You want to be around for yourself and your loved ones for a long time.
Yours in health,