5 drug-free ways to quickly lower blood pressure
If you’re reading this, the chances are that you have high blood pressure, or know someone close to you that does. Before you go ballistic on your local grocery store blood pressure machine, know that there’s a few things you can do to drastically lower blood pressure the natural way, which I’ll share in a minute.
But if you’ll first bear with me, the following is very important that you know:
-Your resting blood pressure should be at about 120/80, or lower.
-Hypertension is one of the biggest predisposing factors for strokes, heart disease, kidney disease among other diseases.
-According to most medical journals, the phases of hypertension are as follows:
Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159/90-99
Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above
Many people with hypertension have no clue they’ve got it (2010). According to the National Center for Health Statistics (2008), about a third of American adults have hypertension. These people are at a much larger risk of cardiovascular events.
These kinds of events we’ve all heard about- the local family function, Uncle Joe’s glass in the air, the toast he’s about to give rudely cut short by a massive heart attack that slumps him over dead. Face in soup and all.
Hypertension often kills us when we feel least vulnerable.
“But Dr Mike, I only have pre-hypertension. I’m not at that great of a risk”.
Studies, including one from the Journal of Hypertension (2006) are now saying that even having PRE-hypertension substantially raises the risk of impending cardiovascular disease (AKA, keeling over dead). As much as it sucks to admit, even pre-hypertension is a life-threatening condition.
“What can I do to naturally prevent high blood pressure?”
Among other things, certain things we ingest have drastic effects on our blood pressure. These substances can act to raise our blood pressure, or conversely lower it. At this point, not smoking (or quitting smoking) should be a no-brainer.
However, many people don’t know what other ways are available.
Here’s five of them:
1. Start consuming dark chocolate-about 30 calories per day. According to a study performed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2007), the cocoa polyphenols have a short-term effect of lowering blood pressure by a few points. A couple points you should know: Although the chocolate will lower it by a few points, it’s not a stand-alone to lower blood pressure. It would be impossible to think you would have stage 2 hypertension to go to normal with a few squares of chocolate. However, the chocolate combined with other methods can help to lower hypertension. Second, dark chocolate doesn’t mean milk chocolate bars with high milk/sugar contents. Dark chocolate is bitter, and is 80% or greater of cocoa content. Finally, non-heated is the most raw, beneficial form of the cocoa available. You may need to go to the health food store to find quality cocoa, but it could also beat being Uncle Joe at the family function.
2. Eliminate (or drastically lower) caffeine consumption. A cup of coffee can raise blood pressure short-term, but dramatically by as much as 5-10 points. Trouble believing this? If you’re a regular coffee drinker, take your resting blood pressure, then about a half-hour after your last cup, retest it again. Sources of caffeine are things like soda (Particularly the yellowish-green one that sounds like “mountain poo”), and of course, coffee.
3. Increase the amount of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet. Many studies now conclude that fruits and vegetables substantially work to lower blood pressure. Among other things found in vegetables, their high nitrate concentration works to relax blood vessels allowing them to dilate, and ultimately lower blood pressure. As well as the concentration of nitrates, it is important to eat vegetables with higher fiber content if you want to help reduce blood pressure. To avoid pesticide-related issues on certain vegetables, it’s important to use the “dirty dozen/clean 15 rule” of buying organic vegetables. What are some great fruits/vegetables to assist in lowering blood pressure? Kale, collard greens, green beans, beets, radishes, lettuce, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon. There’s plenty of healthy ways many of those veggies can be prepared for great taste.
4. Get closer to your ideal body weight. This one step alone may be one of the most crucial toward lowering blood pressure. The other methods discussed here are helpful, but losing weight has the most drastic effect on making permanent changes. According to a study by Dr Roberto Fogari at the University of Pavia (2007), even a modest decrease in weight loss can normalize blood pressure. So much so, that in the study, participants in the study who were in phase 1 hypertension went back to normal levels by simply losing 5% of their body weight (that’s a weight loss of 10 pounds on a 200 pound person). Excuses won’t work when a major stroke/heart attack occurs. It ‘s in your interest to lose weight as soon as possible.
5. Drastically cut down on sodium. The maximum recommendation for sodium intake for people with hypertension is about 1000-1500mg per day. More sodium than that, and blood vessels begin constricting, and blood pressure rises. What does 1000-1500 look like? Around 1 teaspoon of salt contains about 2000mg. In other words, if you want to control blood pressure, your total daily intake of sodium needs to be less than a teaspoon of salt. If you follow what many tout as “healthy eating”, the sodium in your meals for the day may look like this:
-1 1/2 cup Cheerios (300 mg)
-1 Slice Whole wheat toast (100 mg) + Butter (250 mg)
-1 cup orange juice (25 mg)
-Lean Cuisine Meal (700 mg)
-Nature valley granola bar (160 mg)
-1 apple (2 mg)
-Diet coke (40 mg)
-Small bag of baked Cheetos 100 calorie mini (180 mg)
-Stouffer’s french bread pizza (one slice) (820 mg)
-Diet coke (40 mg)
Total sodium intake for the day: a whopping 2,617 mg=high blood pressure heaven.
To decrease sodium and lower blood pressure, your diet must involve a shift toward natural fruits and vegetables. If you’ll notice, the apple (above) only had 2 mg of sodium, hardly a dent toward the total maximum for daily sodium intake.
Decreasing blood pressure naturally does involve change. But if you follow the proper steps, you’ll slash the chance of ending up face-down in your soup as your family looks helplessly on.
Are those lifestyle changes worth it for you?
Lloyd-Jones D, Adams RJ, Brown TM, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2010 Update. A Report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Circulation. 2010;121:e1-e170.
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2008 [PDF 8.4M]. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2008.
Zhang Y, Lee ET, Devereux RB, et al.: Prehypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease risk in a population-based sample: The strong Heart Study. Hypertension 47: 410-414, 2006
Taubert, D, Roesen, R, et al.: Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide JAMA. 2007;298:49-60.
Effect of body weight loss and normalization on blood pressure in overweight non-obese patients with stage 1 hypertension. Fogari R, Zoppi A, Corradi L, Preti P, Mugellini A, Lazzari P, Derosa G. Hypertens Res. 2010 Mar;33(3):236-42.