The holistic high blood pressure basics
If you have elevated blood pressure (BP) there are a number of non-pharmaceutical approaches to take that can be helpful. These are outlined below. But for hypertension the beginning and the end of the story is: whole foods, healthy weight and regular exercise. I realize that is not exciting or new–but it is the basis upon which to build a healthy life. How that happens and specific foods and supplements is today’s story.
Genetics play a huge role in the development of hypertension. You may do everything right and still get it. I strongly encourage you to try all means short of medication. However, if you are consistently having elevated blood pressure, and have been prescribed medication for this, I encourage you to take it.
Uncontrolled hypertension can cause kidney disease, stroke and premature death. If you are on medication, you can try all of these things as well and you might need less medication and possibly no medication as a result. But please work with your practitioner. Jointly discuss your on-going health status and medication needs.
Hypertension is not to be trifled with, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a significant part of your healing as well.
Food is the best medicine
Whole foods are essential to a healthy body. Shop the outer edges of the supermarket and selectively shop the middle. The fewer processed foods you eat (out of a can/box/jar or fast food restaurant) the healthier you will be. Moderation of animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork) and fats (butter, lard), are wise as well–for your body and our planet as well.
Diets–so much choice and confusion
There is great controversy about different diets. I am of the belief that they all can work (with some exceptions) and can all be done healthfully. The trick is finding a way of eating that you like, and sticking to it over time. All the diets that rely on whole foods work. I would avoid the super low calorie diets, as over time your body adjusts to the lower calories, then will gain when you return to a normal calorie intake.
If you want to read on this issue, an Atlantic Magazine article offers a good review “Science Compared Every Diet and the Winner was Real Food”.
Exercise and Hypertension
Moving your body is key to overall health, heart health and lower blood pressure. Finding a level that you will maintain over time is most important. In an ideal world you would walk moderately at least 20 minutes a day–not a stroll.
In an even more ideal world every other day instead of walking you would do a high level workout for 30-60 minutes where you were short of breath and sweating.If this is unrealistic, one brief and effective alternative is this 4 minute workout. Dr. Bush’s 4 minute work out
Exercise is key for heart health and blood pressure maintenance, but not the best path to weight loss.To read more exercise and weight, check out this excellent article Weighing the evidence on Exercise.
It can be hard to know what nutrients are in the foods you are eating. I recommend https://cronometer.com for this. You can chart all the food you eat and it will break down the mineral and vitamins, calories, fats, protein and carbs in your daily food. It is very helpful in understanding both your deficits and your excesses. You can also set it to specific levels for weight loss/gain/maintenance using a variety of different diet regimes.
Foods that help lower blood pressure
Chia seeds are a great source of omega 3 fats and fiber, they Lower LDL and triglycerides, raises HDL (the good cholesterol). Decreases blood sugar and decreases BP. Dose:2 TBSP/day. This contains 3000mg omega3’s, 5 grams of fiber. Avoid with blood thinners (Coumadin etc) Soak in water or juice for 10 minutes, or make Chia pudding: ¼ cup chis per 12 oz juice or coconut/almond/cows milk-sweeten with a few drops of stevia and flavor with a drop of vanilla extract.
Flax Seeds which need to be ground and refrigerated, are also an excellent source of omega 3’s and fiber with similar benefits as Chia seeds. Additionally regular use has been linked to lower breast cancer rates– both primary and recurrence rates. 2 tablespoons daily. You can take the oil directly, but you miss the lingans which are the piece that is particularly helpful for breast cancer prevention and are found in the whole ground seed.
Additionally, these foods all can be helpful:
Whole oats ( steel cut, rolled, not quick oats), Beans: black, navy and garbonzos.
olive oil, fish high in omega 3’s: salmon, mackerel, sardines
Arugula., broccoli, beet juice, celery, tomatoes and let’s not forget the berries: blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
Supplements to help lower blood pressure:
Many of us do not have the appropriate balance of Sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. We think about excess sodium, but often lack the other minerals. These imbalances can results in elevated blood pressure.
Calcium is ideally obtained from foods, but it can he hard to get enough. The RDA for adult women is 1,200mg. Try and get as much as possible through your diet then supplement with Calcium citrate or a food based calcium for the remainder.
Magnesium is harder to get fully in the diet. You can take it as a supplement. Absorption is a challenge. Magnesium citrate is easy to find and it is fairly well absorbed. When not absorbed, diarrhea is the result which is why it is used often as a laxative. If you cannot tolerate oral magnesium, then soak in Epsom salts—it is just magnesium and it will absorb through your skin and not bother your digestion.
Potassium is a bit trickier 4000 mg is the RDA it is possible to get enough fully from fruit and vegetable consumption and very challenging to eat too much. Food consumption is the preferred method as elevated levels can be dangerous, however supplements are available.
Some high potassium foods are: Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, avocados. The following veggies cooked: beet greens, chard, spinach, broccoli, sweet and white potatoes, bok choy, asparagus, brussel sprouts, green peas and zucchini.
Of concern, some salt substitutes that may contain much higher amounts of potassium. People trying to curb their sodium intake may try these products. A mere one-quarter teaspoon of one brand contains about 800 mg of potassium. If you take a potassium-sparing diuretic, such as spironolactone, you should avoid salt substitutes and limit high-potassium foods.
However, if you take a diuretic that depletes potassium levels, such as hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide, you may be prescribed extended-release potassium tablets, which contain 600 to 750 mg of the mineral. You can also focus on high potassium foods.
Other Supplements to lower blood pressure:
Here are a couple that have been proven helpful:
L theanine Lowers blood pressure and improved mood, concentration and decreases anxiety and stress.. 200 to 400 mg once or twice daily. (1200 maximum a day). Interacts with statins, some chemotherapy and antihypertensive. Avoid if taking these drugs.
Co Q 10 Lowers blood pressure in 50% of folks, can take up to 8 weeks to work. Can also restore depleted levels of co Q 10 seen with stain use and help if you have muscle aches on statins. Not all CoQ10 supplements are not created equal. Studies have shown ubiquinol absorbs better than ubiquinone-the oxidized form of the enzyme.
NOTE: Take CoQ10 with a meal. CoQ10 is fat-soluble and is best absorbed when taken with food. Dose: 100 mg once to twice a day-higher if you are on statins or have inflammatory conditions. Side effects: can be nausea and diarrhea—start slowly to avoid these. Avoid if you take blood thinners.
Here are a lot of options to help you achieve greater health and lower blood pressure. But the bottom line is, if you are overweight, eating processed food daily and not exercising, you will be fighting an uphill battle against your hypertension. Healthy diet, reasonable weight (check out this “smart” BMI calculator which takes age, gender and race into account: https://www.smartbmicalculator.com) and regular exercise (even just walking 20 minutes a day) are the cornerstones of a longer healthful life.
If you are on anti-hypertension medications and want to come off of them, I applaud you. Apply yourself to the recommendations outlined about. But again, please work with your health practitioner to safely reduce your medications.