Change Your Diet, Change Your Blood Pressure?
Jan 21, 2014
If you know me, then you already know how I like to link pretty much any ailment (with some exceptions) back to how you feed your body. With such fast-paced, high-stressed lifestyles in this day and age, high blood pressure has become so common that folks are being put on drugs earlier and earlier in order to get things under control. Well, how about I tell you some ways that you can lower your blood pressure just by making a few changes in your diet? I'm not even going to simply tell you how to do this, but WHY as well! That way you can have some knowledge ammunition when someone asks you why you're choosing such-and-such instead of fill-in-the-blank.
In case you're new to what blood pressure actually means, let me give you the run down. Blood pressure is measured by way of two numbers, one "over" the other. The top number is the amount of pressure when the heart is pumping blood while the bottom number is the amount of pressure while the heart is at rest. A health blood pressure is below 120/80. Stage 1 hyperstension (high blood pressure) is diagnosed at 140/90, and Stage 2 is above 160/100.
High blood pressure doesn't just happen on its own. It's typically a sure sign that there are other issues going on within the body. By evaluating your nutrition and lifestyle habits and making even minor changes, you can generally manage elevated blood pressure on your own without the use of prescribed medications.
- Slow down on (or completely eliminate!) refined carbohydrates in the form of processed foods and sugars. One of the most significant contributors to high blood pressure is insulin resistance. This is something that happens once the body can no longer effectively process sugars by way of insulin. Chronically elevated levels of blood sugar drive insulin resistance which drives high blood pressure. Excess intake of sugar-sweetened beverages are a large reason that folks develop blood pressure due to the link between excess sugar intake and insulin resistance. Oh, and by the way, diet drinks aren't the answer either. Studies show that artificial sweeteners have a link to elevated blood pressure as well!
- Get your minerals: potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It's been "common knowledge" for decades now that in order to keep blood pressure in check we need to reduce sodium intake. Well, research is now showing that this may not simply be the answer. Eating foods rich in other minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium is actually more beneficial than simply avoiding sodium. In fact, a high potassium-to-sodium ratio is very beneficial for managing and lowering blood pressure. If you're watching your carbohydrate intake, don't take it too low. Many starchy foods like plantains, sweet potatoes and bananas are rich sources of potassium. When it comes to calcium, focus on food sources such as bone-in fish and dark leafy greens. Magnesium is a natural "relaxer," acting to "relax" blood vessels and thus reducing the pressure within them. Dark chocolate is a great source of natural magnesium. Don't jump too high for joy, however...it must be very dark and without milk solids and soy to be of most benefit!
- If you do dairy, choose grass-fed products like ghee, butter, and cheese. These products are high sources of vitamin K. Studies are now showing that vitamin K may play be protective against hypertension. It's said that it reduces vascular (blood vessel) stiffness and arterial hardening. Having adequate vitamin K also allows calcium to be better absorbed into the bone rather than available to calcify in the arteries.
- Eat plenty of fatty fish each week. Fish like wild-caught halibut, salmon, and sardines are high in essential omega-3's. These essential fats have been shown to be beneficial in reducing the risk of hypertension. It is ideal to get your omegas by way of eating fish, rather than relying on supplement forms. As an added bonus, these fatty fish are also high in potassium, a beneficial mineral I've already spoken of above.
- Drink tea, just make sure it's not overtly sweet! The best choice is a naturally decaffinated version such as rooibos or chamomile. Roobios (or red tea) is naturally high in magnesium, that "relaxer" I mentioned earlier that helps reduce tension in the vessels themselves. Chamomile tea is a calming tea that can aid in stress reduction--stress being one of the major risk factors for developing high blood pressure. Both of these teas can be enjoyed at any time of day since they are not caffinated. Try to teach your tastebuds to appreciate these teas without added sweeteners. We don't want to counteract their benefits by creating havoc with your blood sugar!
As you can see you can make small changes that can help lessen your blood pressure. I can't say how important it is to be your own advocate when it comes to your health. Simple things can have great outcomes. If you have any questions regarding any of the above information, please feel free to contact me any time!