This guest post was written by Dr. Shawna Darou, who has been a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 10 years. You can check out her amazingly informative blog about all things health related here.
What causes high blood pressure
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. When your blood pressure is high, the heart has to work harder to pump blood, and it can be a contributing factor to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), strokes, kidney disease and heart failure.
Causes of high blood pressure can include:
- Being overweight
- Too much salt in the diet
- More than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal or thyroid disorders
Signs of high blood pressure you shouldn’t ignore
For most people, high blood pressure is a symptomless condition, so it is extremely important to have your levels tested regularly and if you have hypertension to monitor these numbers yourself. What this means is that you could be walking around with blood pressure levels as high as 160/110 and have absolutely no signs or symptoms at all.
In cases of what is called a ‘hypertensive crisis’, meaning blood pressure readings are dangerously high (systolic of 180 or higher OR diastolic or 110 or higher), there may be symptoms such as:
- Severe headache
- Severe anxiety
- Shortness or breath
A hypertensive crisis is an emergency situation that requires acute medical care.
Nutrition and other tips to lower your blood pressure:
Nutrition and foods:
- Eat a more plant-based diet. This means including lots more vegetables, up to 2 fruit servings daily and cutting back on meats.
- Tip your sodium to potassium ratio. A diet with sufficient potassium is necessary to maintain low blood pressure. Sources of potassium include green juices, spinach, avocado, beans, squash and bananas to name a few. Along the same lines, it is often necessary to reduce sodium intake, as high sodium alone can lead to high blood pressure. As above, eating a more plant-based diet with minimal packaged and processed foods will tip your potassium to sodium ratios. (*Caution: certain blood pressure medications can increase potassium levels in the blood. Eating more potassium-rich foods is safe, but do not take potassium supplements without consulting your physician).
- Eat more garlic. Garlic has sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin which have been shown to lower blood pressure. Fresh, raw garlic works best or you can choose nutritional supplements with allicin extract.
- Drink beet juice. Several studies have shown that drinking fresh beet juice lowers blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood vessels.
- Switch from coffee to black tea. Flavonoids in tea can improve the tone of blood vessels, helping them to work more efficiently. In studies, 3 cups of black tea per day made a noticeable difference in blood pressure levels.
- Add magnesium. Many people are deficient in magnesium, and this mineral is important to help dilate blood vessels and prevent spasm in the blood vessel walls. Optimal heart and blood vessel function will support healthier blood pressure. Optimal dosages range from 200-400 mg daily.
- Take Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 can have a significant impact on blood pressure levels, and is a safe supplement to take for overall cardiovascular health.
- Move your body. Exercise is important for management of all types of cardiovascular conditions. If you’re active for at least a 30 minute brisk walk daily, this is an essential step to lower your blood pressure.
- Lose weight. Many people find that their blood pressure returns to normal range when they lose excess weight. If you are more than 10-15 pounds above your optimal range, find support to lose weight in a healthy way with an optimal diet for your metabolism and regular exercise.
- Check for and treat sleep apnea. Poor sleep quality can cause overall body inflammation, stiffer arteries and higher blood pressure. If you’re waking up tired after at least 7 hours of sleep, consider a sleep study assessment to see if you may have sleep apnea. Other steps such as keeping your bedroom cool and very dark, and avoiding bright lights and all electronics in the hour before bedtime will also help with your sleep quality, and blood pressure.
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