Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats).
The measurement is written one above or before the other, with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is expressed verbally as “120 over 80.”
High blood pressure (hypertension) usually has no symptoms, that is why it is called the “silent killer.” People can have high blood pressure for years without experiencing symptoms or knowing they have it. One in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure. But nearly one-third of those people don’t know they have high blood pressure, because it is a silent disease.
A normal blood pressure number is about or below 120/80, prehypertension is diagnosed between 120/80 – 139/89, Stage 1 hypertension is between 140/90 – 159/99, and Stage 2 hypertension is blood pressure above 160/100. (These ranges can vary according to age – consult your health care professional.) Left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, brain hemorrhage, kidney disease, and vision loss.
See Your Doctor
Everyone has a unique set of circumstances and it is important to consult your doctor or health care professional about yours. Medication may be the most prudent course of action for your own health and safety. Besides medication, there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your blood pressure. With the proper changes you may be able to get off your medications completely.
Important note here: some blood pressure medications, if suddenly stopped, can cause your blood pressure to elevate severely and result in death. Do not stop taking your medication without the guidance of your doctor or health care professional.
Here are some steps you can take – besides taking meds – for high blood pressure.
Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you’re taking more effective.
Get some exercise on a regular basis. Do something, even it’s ‘just’ walking for 30 minutes several times week. And relax while you’re walking – leave that cell phone at home! When you feel comfortable you could move on to burst aerobics and strength training. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Get More Sun
The best place to take your exercise is outdoors in sunlight. This has to do with the fact that sunlight increases the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the skin. NO is a vasodilator, easing blood flow and reducing blood pressure. In fact, the further north you live from the equator, the greater the chance you’ll have high blood pressure.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Reduce excessive carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs and sugars. This is a no-brainer and applies to everyone. High blood sugar and insulin resistance are the most significant contributors to high blood pressure. It is far more common in people with high blood pressure than those with normal blood pressure. Excess consumption of carbohydrate, especially refined grains and sugars is a major factor. Also sugary soda, tea, and other beverages can increase your blood pressure. Artificially-sweetened beverages also contribute to hypertension.
Increase intake of beneficial minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This chart may help get you started. And, while conventional wisdom says that reduce sodium intake is beneficial for reducing high blood pressure, there is evidence that a low sodium diet may not be good for us. Your sodium-to-potassium ratio is more important than your overall sodium. A high-potassium diet can be better for your blood pressure than eating a low-sodium diet.
Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fats which have been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension. It is difficult to argue against the many benefits of fatty fish for promoting overall health. especially for those with high blood pressure. Some fatty fish like halibut and wild salmon are high in potassium, as demonstrated in the chart mentioned in the previous paragraph. This is a good example of why it may be wise to opt for whole-foods rather than supplements. Many foods have more than one and possibly synergistic effects that can benefit you more if taken together than individually. (This was mentioned in our previous post relating to cranberries.)
Time for Tea
Certain teas can be helpful for reducing blood pressure, especially hibiscus tea. Hibiscus flowers are rich in flavonoids, minerals, and other nutrients, and hibiscus tea has a deep red color and a delicious, fruity taste. There is also hawthorn tea, gotu kola tea, oolong tea and green tea. Experimentation and personal taste is the key here!
Reduction of alcohol consumption is helpful for lowering blood pressure. Studies have shown that one or two drinks a day can be beneficial for your health. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. You need to reduce you alcohol intake if you’re drinking more than that.
Stress and Hypertension
Lastly, stress can be a big contributor towards hypertension. The conditions that surrounds us daily cannot always be changed, but our reaction to them can be. This is a good place to mention counseling, meditation, yoga, or other practices to calm the mind. Exposure to sunlight has been shown to boost endorphins, chemicals in your brain that produce feelings of euphoria. Endorphins naturally relieve stress, and so that’s another reason to take your exercise outdoors.
High blood pressure is an epidemic. The best treatment is to evaluate your lifestyle and make the necessary adjustments. A natural approach to preventing disease and healing yourself when illness strikes is always the better choice. In the case of high blood pressure, lifestyle changes can put you on the road to an all natural return to optimal health without medication.