According to the new guidelines just released by the American Heart Association (AHA) this month, nearly half of all Americans are now living with high blood pressure. So that means that people that were considered "borderline" at 130/80 - would now be diagnosed with high blood pressure (Hypertension). According to cardiologist Dr. Sinatra - healthy blood pressure levels should be under 120/80.
How do you know if you have high blood pressure?
The thing is, high blood pressure often will have no obvious symptoms. So the majority of people with high blood pressure - are unaware that they have it. But high blood pressure is often called "the silent killer" - because the first symptom can be deadly. The best way to determine if your blood pressure is in a good place is to have your blood pressure measured. High blood pressure tends to run in families - so if you have close relatives that have had hypertension, you will especially want to monitor your blood pressure regularly - you might want to consider getting a home monitor.
What are the dangers of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure can double your risk of a heart attack and is a risk factor for stroke, dementia, kidney failure, & blindness. Learn more about risk factors of hypertension from the Mayo Clinic.
10 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure - Naturally
Please note: If you are taking any prescription medications, or under the care of a doctor for any reason - talk to your doctor about these suggestions before implementing them in case there are contraindications or interactions. Your doctor may also wish to monitor you in case changes need to be made to your prescriptions. These tips are general in nature and may not be appropriate for everyone. Whenever making changes to your diet and lifestyle - it is recommended to do it gradually to allow your body to adjust.
1. Sprinkle on some cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a very powerful tool when it comes to blood pressure and blood sugar - lowering both. Cinnamon has other benefits - including fighting bad bacteria in the gut, and revving up the metabolism. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, just 1/2 of a teaspoon a day of cinnamon could be enough to help reduce blood pressure. You can add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, add it to nut butter, sprinkle it on fruit, and add it to nuts before roasting, you can also add it to coffee.
2. Load up on plant based foods. (Especially vitamin C, potassium and magnesium-rich foods!)
Did you know that the USDA recommends adults consume 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Yes, NINE!! Sadly, on the Standard American Diet (SAD), most people are not getting even half that - with many people barely getting 1 serving a day. Plant-based foods are rich in important nutrients and electrolytes that help to balance our blood pressure. Potassium is particularly important for healthy blood pressure levels - so reach for avocados, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and prunes.
3. Get Your Omega 3s.
Best known for their anti-inflammatory effects, omega 3 fatty acids also have blood thinning effects too, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Try to incorporate chia seeds, flax seeds, and fatty fish like wild salmon. And consider sardines too - not only are they rich in omega 3s, they also are low in mercury, and are high in heart-healthy Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)! I love making these Flax Raisin muffins - they are grain free, gluten free, low in sugar and high in omega 3 fatty acids- and they are delicious! Also consider adding some flax or chia to your overnight oats, or making chia pudding.
4. Skip the Sugar.
For a very long time - experts have pointed the finger at salt as the primary culprit for high blood pressure. But now experts are saying another white substance may be more to blame - SUGAR. Blood sugar and blood pressure - are closely linked. Post meal glucose spikes increases blood pressure and the risk for heart attack. So consider skipping dessert, or instead - opting for a square or two of dark chocolate instead. But make sure to go for dark - the cacao content should be at least 60%- the higher cacao content, the better for you. A Harvard study found that dark chocolate lowered blood pressure as well as reduced the risk of heart attack and diabetes. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which helps to relax the blood vessels, and it also helps to improve blood flow to extremities.
5. Choose Olive or Avocado oil.
A recent study showed that when participants used 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily, it lowered blood pressure, with 35% of the participants benefitting so much that they were able to stop their medications! It has also been linked to better brain health too. Avocado oil is also a healthy oil associated with lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. The other benefit of avocado oil is that it has a high smoke point, so that is the one I recommend for cooking above 300 degrees.
6. Limit alcohol.
The studies are clear about the link between heavy alcohol use and blood pressure - alcohol raises blood pressure. But what constitutes "heavy drinking" might surprise some - just 3 drinks for women is considered "heavy alcohol consumption." Cutting back on the alcohol may not just lower your blood pressure - a new study found that heavy drinking can also raise the risk of several different cancers - the strongest link being with cancers of the head, neck and throat. So sticking with no more than 1 drink a day for women, and 2 for men will lower your blood pressure and your cancer risk.
7. Take a daily stroll.
Getting some exercise each day - like taking a walk can help to lower blood pressure. According to the Mayo clinic, "Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)." If you are concerned with your blood pressure levels or heart health - stick to gentle exercise and talk to your doctor before beginning any strenuous exercise program to be sure your heart is in good enough shape for it.
8. Manage stress levels.
High levels of stress can send your blood pressure soaring. So trying to keep stress levels under control is important for managing healthy blood pressure. If you get an elevated reading in your doctor's office - make sure to check it again - sometimes people can be stressed out at the doctors office - causing their blood pressure to be higher. Consider acupuncture, meditation, and/or yoga for lowering stress levels.
9. Get plenty of sleep
Getting a poor night's sleep can do more than make you groggy - it can raise your blood pressure. A 2006 study published in the journal Hypertension found that people who slept 5 hours or less per night were 32% more likely to develop hypertension than those who slept 7–8 hours per night. Some tips for getting a good night's sleep - avoid caffeine after 1:00pm, turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime, take a warm bath to help calm the nervous system before bedtime, and take a magnesium supplement before bedtime can also help some settle down to a good night's sleep.
10. Consider some supplements*:
Gradually making the above nutritional and lifestyle changes might be enough to lower slightly elevated blood pressure. Some people might also find that taking certain supplements could help to get blood pressure into a healthy range. *Talk to your prescribing doctor before adding any supplements if you are currently taking medication or speak to your healthcare provider if you are being treated for any condition.
Taurine. An amino acid rich in sulfur, taurine has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure. Similar to cinnamon, it also helps to lower blood glucose as well. Taurine may also help support the cells to hold magnesium and potassium, while excreting excess sodium - which means it acts in a similar way to diuretics, but without the stress on the kidneys. Taurine may also help you lose weight, which is beneficial for blood pressure too.
CoQ10- according to Cardiologist Dr. Steven Sinatra, coQ10 is important for cellular health, claiming that "many of my patients who take a water-soluble form of CoQ10 have cut their use of blood pressure drugs in half, while maintaining healthy blood pressure." He recommends 200-300 mg of CoQ10 for healthy blood pressure levels.
Omega 3 fish oils - studies show that omega 3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and thin the blood. Taking 1 gram of fish oil may help to keep blood pressure levels in a healthy range according to Dr. Josh Axe.
Magnesium- shown to relax blood vessels, magnesium can lower blood pressure and is a very important mineral for heart health. Dr. Josh Axe recommends supplementing 500 mg. of magnesium daily for healthy blood pressure.
Chromium - Chromium is known for supporting healthy glucose metabolism and enzyme activity, which may improve body composition. Studies show that supplementing with chromium can help to reduce blood pressure and balance blood sugar level.
Vitamin C - according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, and a study published in Nutrition Journal, supplementing with vitamin C may help to reduce blood pressure.