Hypertension – Managing High Blood Pressure, Naturally

We've all had our blood pressure checked at some point - whether it was the last time we visited our GP, or using a home monitor.  And most of us would know that high blood pressure (hypertention) is a risk to our health.  It places extra stress on our blood vessels and can potentially cause damage to vital organs such as the brain and kidneys, plus it increases our risk of suffering a stroke.  So it goes without saying that is a good idea to be aware of where your blood pressure typically sits, as well as keeping an eye out for the symptoms of high blood pressure.

What is Normal – And What Is Not

High blood pressure is little different to most other health conditions, because it does not always cause noticeable symptoms – you may feel fine, and be blissfully unaware that your pressure is high until you have a routine check-up.  Symptoms, if you do experience them, can include headaches, dizziness, blurred vision or palpitations.

You’ve probably noticed that when your blood pressure is being assessed, your result consists of two numbers, one over the other.  And here’s what they mean.  The first, or top number is known as your ‘systolic’ blood pressure and this refers to the force with which your heart is pumping blood out in order for it to make its way around your entire body.  The harder it is having to push, the higher your systolic level will be.  The second, or bottom number is called your ‘diastolic’ blood pressure and this number reflects the pressure that remains in your blood vessels in between beats.  The more flexible (and therefore healthy) your vessels are, the better they spring back between beats, and the lower the pressure. Thus, the combination of these two numbers gives us both an idea about how hard your heart is having to work, and the kind of shape your blood vessels are in.

Normal pressure is between 115/75 and 129/84
High-Normal is between 130/85 and 139/89
High blood pressure is above 140/90

While it can be worrying to have a higher reading (particularly if it was unexpected!), keep in mind that your blood pressure can change according to what you have going on.  If you are feeling stressed or anxious, have been exercising, or have recently enjoyed a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, your blood pressure reading may be affected.  With this in mind, it is a good idea to take a few measurements over a period of time, when you are in a relaxed state, in order to get a proper feel for what is normal for you.

A Disease...Or A Warning Sign?

The trouble, as with many of the chronic health conditions that are common these days, is that our healthcare system treats hypertension as a disease in itself – yet this is not strictly correct.  High blood pressure is actually a signal that something is not quite right within the body, and a chance for us to pay attention before things get too serious.  It is your body’s attempt to respond to an insult such as inflammation, oxidative stress (excessive production of, or exposure to, molecules that damage our cells), unhappy kidneys, imbalanced thyroid function or problems with blood sugar regulation.  Therefore, treating the underlying cause should ALWAYS be part of your blood pressure management strategy.

Nutrition & Natural Options For Healthy Blood Pressure

Here are a few of my favourite nutrients and foods that I recommend when I’m working with patients who want to manage their blood pressure naturally:

  • Eat foods with a low glycaemic index (GI):  Foods that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and that keep your blood sugar levels steady are best for helping protect the heart and blood vessels.  Base your meals and snacks around fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and lean protein such as chicken or fish.  Too much salt can increase blood pressure, so it is a good idea to keep this to a minimum by using fresh herbs or spices for flavour, and avoiding packaged foods as much as possible.  (Incidentally, our Metabolic Balance program covers all of these areas, and we've witnessed some great improvements in blood pressure in our participants!)
  • Include foods that support gut health. There is emerging evidence that the gut bacterial balance plays a role in how well our bodies are able to regulate our blood pressure.1  It makes good sense to ensure that your gut is functioning well and you are keeping your collection of gut bacteria (your microbiome) healthy with plenty of prebiotic foods.  You’ll also get plenty of benefit for your overall health as well!
  • Magnesium is my go-to for many health issues, including blood pressure.Not only does it encourage the blood vessels to relax (so that they allow blood to flow through more easily), magnesium also helps the body deal with blood sugar in a healthier way (remember that blood sugar problems can be one of the contributing factors).  Magnesium has the added bonus of helping you feel calmer and less stressed.
  • B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are known to help reduce levels of homocysteine, a compound in the body that is linked to blood pressure issues and poor cardiovascular health.3, 4  B vitamins can be helpful for improving energy, so you get a bonus benefit if you happen to have been feeling a bit flat.
  • High-Strength fish oils support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as being protective of the heart.They assist with controlling inflammation within the body and are also a valuable adjunct strategy for low moods and depression.

Do YOU Need Help For Your Blood Pressure?

Taking a holistic approach to managing your blood pressure can be both invaluable and rewarding, and there are further options that I use in the clinic that I have not covered here. If you need help to improve your health and manage your blood pressure, it’s never too late!

REFERENCES:
Richards, E. M., Pepine, C. J., Raizada, M. K., & Kim, S. (2017). The Gut, Its Microbiome, and Hypertension. Current hypertension reports, 19(4), 36. doi:10.1007/s11906-017-0734-1
2 Gums JG. Magnesium in cardiovascular and other disorders. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2004;61(15):1569-1576
3 Ma Y, Peng D, Liu C, Huang C, Luo J. Serum high concentrations of homocysteine and low levels of folate and vitamin B12 are significantly correlated with the categories of coronary artery diseases. BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2017 Dec 1;17(1):37.
4  Powers HJ. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun;77(6):1352-60
5 Colussi, G. et al.Impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on vascular function and blood pressure: Relevance for cardiovascular outcomes.  Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume 27, Issue 3, 191 – 200

Tags

blood pressure, hypertension


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