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Natural Treatments for High Blood Pressure

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Natural Treatments for High Blood Pressure
(Courtesy of John Berardi, Ph.D. and Spencer Nadolsky, D.O, Precision Nutrition)

In the past, you hardly paid attention to these two numbers rattled off by the nurse at your doctor’s office.

Now, you’ve been told your blood pressure is chronically high, and suddenly you need to understand them.

  • The top number (systolic) is the pressure in your arteries during a heartbeat.
  • The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure in your arteries while your heart is resting between beats.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is related to the stiffening of blood vessels and arteries, and can be caused by:

  • A problem with your kidneys’ salt balancing function
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Immune problems
  • Genetics
  • Being sedentary
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Excessive sodium intake (usually from processed foods)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Stress

What your diagnosis means

Blood pressure has a significant effect on how healthy you can hope to be in the future.High blood pressure can put you at risk for all sorts of health problems. If the pressure damages the blood vessels in your:

  • eyes, you could end up blind.
  • kidneys, you could end up on dialysis.
  • heart, you could end up with a heart attack.
  • brain, you could end up having a stroke or developing Alzheimer’s.
  • legs and arms, you could end up with peripheral vascular disease.

What you can do about it

Just like the 35-year-old man above, if you address your blood pressure now, you cut your risk of related health problems and death substantially.

Diet

Here again, getting (and staying) at a healthy weight and body fat level is your goal. Fat cells produce substances that promote pressure-promoting inflammation throughout the blood vessels and heart.

Some guidelines:

  • Add one serving of vegetables and/or fruits to each meal.The more plants in your diet, the better. This will help you lower your sodium intake and also increase intake of nutrients like potassium and magnesium, which help lower blood pressure by improving vessel elasticity.
  • Include healthy fats:Add a couple of portions of fatty fish per week. Consuming healthy fats is linked to lower blood pressure, likely because of Omega-3’s’ influence on eicosanoid production, which helps control vessel dilation and platelet aggregation.
  • Reduce processed foods.This is one of the easiest ways to lower your sodium (salt) intake. Cutting sodium intake from 6,000 mg per day (that’s a typical intake in North America) to 2,300 mg or less can lower blood pressure 10 points without any other changes.
  • Limit alcohol.About one drink a day — especially red wine — can lower blood pressure slightly (particularly in women); more than that can contribute to high blood pressure by promoting high triglycerides (blood fats) and weight gain.

Exercise

Exercise helps you get and stay at a healthy body weight. It also helps your blood vessels stay elastic and your heart work more efficiently.

Incorporate a mix of low-intensity cardio, high-intensity interval training, and resistance work. Weight training or other structured workouts — at least 5 hours of exercise per week — can be especially effective in helping to lowering blood pressure.

But be careful: Using the Valsalva maneuver can bump up blood pressure during lifting, so opt for shorter sets with longer rests, and watch your heart rate.

Since stress can make high blood pressure worse, also consider recreational physical activities that de-stress you — such as walking or hiking outside.

Supplements

Each of these supplements could independently play a role in helping manage blood pressure. (Which means you don’t have to take both to see benefits). Of course, always talk to your doctor before taking supplements for a medical condition.

  • Magnesium:Supplementing may reduce blood pressure if you’re deficient, so get tested first. Dosage: 400 mg per day.
  • Coenzyme Q10:This antioxidant may help decrease blood pressure slightly. Dosage: 100 mg per day.

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Lisa has been my trainer for at least 16 years. She makes the business of keeping fit and supple funny and fun. Prior to knowing her I never lasted at any gym or class longer than a few weeks. Now I hate missing a session. She is a  great friend and I value her immensely.
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