High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the most common of all cardiovascular diseases and the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Because hypertension is largely a “silent” or symptomless disease, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked at least once a year, starting at age 40. In hypertensive individuals, systolic pressure (the top number) is over 140 and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is over 90. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. But, whether you suffer from high blood pressure or may simply be at risk for the condition, there are a number of things you can do now to support healthy blood pressure levels.
The typical advice for those with high blood pressure is to reduce the amount of salt they eat. Yet, keeping the right sodium balance in the body depends on the amount of potassium and magnesium in the blood. Eating foods high in these two minerals can help to improve blood pressure and reduce your chances of coronary artery disease and stroke. Good sources include fruits like apricots, bananas, and cantaloupe, and vegetables like broccoli, kale, and yams. There are also other foods with other ingredients to support healthy blood pressure. For instance, compounds in brown rice protect against hypertension by blocking an enzyme (angiotensin II) that increases blood pressure. Whey protein powder has been found to lower blood pressure in those with hypertension. Studies suggest that foods high in polyphenols like dark chocolate, green tea, or red grapes may also help stabilize blood pressure. Beet juice contains precursors to nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and causes them to dilate.
The well-studied DASH diet is a healthy, fiber-based diet which has shown excellent results for reducing blood pressures without the need of medications. You can visit dashdiet.org for more information. A recent double-blinded placebo-controlled study revealed the greatest reduction in blood pressure by food: patients took 2 tablespoons of flaxmeal and found lower systolic blood pressure 10 – 15 points and 7 points for diastolic after six months. These reductions would be expected to result in around a 50% fall in the incidence of stroke and a 30% reduction in heart attacks.
Adopting healthy habits can also help keep your blood pressure in check. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If you smoke, it’s important to find a way to quit. The nicotine in cigarettes can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high. Stress can also temporarily increase blood pressure. Learn to cope with stress using relaxation techniques. Try deep-breathing exercises, get a massage, or take up yoga or meditation.
Aged garlic extract: contains compounds recently found to reduce blood pressure. One recent study in the journal, Maturitas, found that patients who were given AGE every day for 12 weeks experienced an average drop in their systolic blood pressure of 10.2 mm Hg compared to placebo. This led the researchers to conclude that AGE offered benefits similar benefits to first line medication used to treat uncontrolled hypertension. Typical dosage: 960 mg daily of an AGE supplement standardized with S-allylcysteine.
Hibiscus: eases mild high blood pressure much the same way as anti-hypertensive drugs by opening up blood vessels, decreasing the viscosity of blood, and increasing urine production (which reduces blood volume). In one clinical trial that appeared in the Journal of Nutrition, 65 patients with mild high blood pressure drank either three cups of hibiscus tea or a placebo drink daily for six weeks. Overall, drinking the hibiscus tea lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of seven points. Typical dosage: 2 to 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily or 1,000 mg of supplemental hibiscus twice daily taken between meals.
Nattokinase: is an enzyme from fermented soybeans that acts like a natural ACE inhibitor. In a recent trial of 73 individuals with borderline hypertension, which appeared in the journal Hypertension Research, scientists from Seoul, South Korea, found that nattokinase reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 5.55 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2.84 mm Hg and it did so in just eight weeks. Typical dosage: 100 mg daily. Those who have suffered from ischemic stroke or with peptic ulcer or blood clotting disorders should avoid this nutrient.