Having high blood pressure is a very common ailment for American adults with estimates of one in every three people, that’s over 75 million! Having high blood pressure is a symptom of an out-of-balance system. Long-term high blood pressure leads to a variety of issues including insulin resistance which leads to diabetes, increased risk of heart attack and strokes, and even kidney failure. There are drugs that can lower blood pressure, but they often have significant side effects and can be used as a last resort. There are many pathways to better health with no adverse effects that can greatly reduce the risks and issues associated with high blood pressure.
What causes high blood pressure?
A common cause of high blood pressure is the consistent intake of processed foods high in sugar and salt. Soda, candy, chips, crackers, and bread are all packed full of salt and sugar to make them tasty. Unfortunately, the same things that make them so irresistible are what make them so tough on your body. Other common habits also increase blood pressure like drinking alcohol, smoking (or vaping), and drinking lots of caffeine.
There are other factors that can lead to high blood pressure outside of what you ingest. Sustained emotional stress can throw your system off. Lacking daily exercise raises blood pressure and likely will lead to an increased weight which also has the same effect. Another cause can be heavy metal poisoning, especially lead and mercury, which is a good area to check if your feel like the other causes are not likely for you.
How do I lower my blood pressure naturally? It starts with food.
The most effective method for lowering your blood pressure is to analyze your diet and choose foods that serve your healthy body. A huge food culprit in driving your blood pressure upward is sugar with refined flour a close second. Processed foods that come out of a box that has sat on a shelf for several months are almost always high in salt and sugar even if they claim to be healthy. These foods cause inflammation in your body. To lower blood pressure, eat more plants. Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and good oils like olive (not canola or “vegetable”) are your friends. Sugar, grains, and bad oils are making your body work hard every day and high blood pressure is a common sign of this issue.
For additional dietary support, there are a few key nutrients that can greatly reduce high blood pressure. Most Americans lack magnesium, and it can be hard to get enough through your diet due to how we have treated farming/soil. Using a magnesium supplement can be a great start to address your blood pressure. There are many types that have different secondary effects so it is worth spending a little time finding the right one for you. You will want to consult your doctor before starting any supplements or vitamins to make sure they are right for you. A high-quality fish oil supplement to provide omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, is a great solution if wild-caught salmon is tough to find (or afford) or you just can’t eat sardines daily (no judgment). Potassium is found abundantly in many vegetables, avocados, bananas, and leafy greens and is not a vitamin that generally should require supplementation. The issue is that the balance between potassium and salt is heavily tilted toward salt in most people. Adding a few potassium-rich foods can be helpful though, such as bananas, avocado, spinach, and coconut water if you are looking for a sweet drink (in moderation). To be clear, the excess salt in our diets is from the additives in the packaged foods, not the small amount added to a home-cooked meal. Those boxed foods need a huge amount of salt and sugar to taste decent. If you do want to limit your salt additions in home cooking, just wait until the end of the cooking process when you will taste that salt more so you can use less.
Give me some other ways to lower my blood pressure!
There are a few habit changes that can make big differences.
- Daily exercise of at least 30 minutes. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, interval training, and strength training all are ways to get your body moving. The key is to be consistent and get out there every day.
- Limit alcohol to a few drinks a week, at most, or none at all (best option).
- Quitting smoking or vaping is a huge benefit for your system.
- Getting a good night’s sleep of eight hours every day is critical for your body to recover from the day and a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, is a good start to better sleep.
- Avoiding long-term emotional stress can help your health too. If you know parts of your life cause you stress, try to plan to solve them. This could be avoiding rush hour traffic or finding time to meditate, or enjoying a hobby. Sometimes simple changes and habits can make a huge difference.
Having high blood pressure is not something that can be ignored. There are too many bad outcomes caused by persistent high blood pressure. The good thing is that there are many ways to help reduce your risk naturally before a serious problem arrives. As always, speak to your doctor before starting any supplements or vitamins.