Has your blood pressure been creeping up lately? Learn how to lower blood pressure naturally with food, exercise and stress management.
Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Blood pressure is complex. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause complications like heart attack, stroke, aneurism, memory problems, and lots more. It's a serious matter. Often, it requires medication to help get it under control.
What's the Secret?
Nothing is secret about this healthy lifestyle pathway. I have learned a few things about controlling my own blood pressure, and I share my research with you here. I'm no expert, but there are some things you can do to improve your blood pressure naturally. I found four ways to improve mine:
- Manage my weight.
- Manage my stress.
- Eat for health.
- Listen to my doctor.
First, I lost weight. I was 70 pounds over my ideal weight and I slowly took about half those pounds off. You can read How I Healed Myself With Food here.
Size of Waist
One factor in determining if your weight is troubling is the circumference of your waist. For women, a waist measuring 35 inches or more indicates you might be headed for heart problems. For men, the measurement is 40 inches.
Was my waist 35 inches or more? Yup. I had a 35-inch waist. And the prediction of heart problems was spot on. I had a heart attack. It hurt like hell, and I'm never doing that again.
Keep a Food Journal
How did I lose the weight? I kept a food journal, which helped me determine that certain foods were making me sick. When I stopped eating those foods, my body healed and I slowly lost weight.
I tell you my story, explain exactly how to test yourself for food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, and give you the tools to do it in my new book, It Ain’t Just the Diet™ Food Journal | A Daily Guide to Finding & Managing Your Food Allergies, soon to be published. For updates and to get your own copy, subscribe to our email announcement list.
Second, I discovered a few stress management techniques that worked for me. For instance, I learned to take deep breaths to calm myself down, especially if I had just rushed to the doctor's office without giving myself enough time to get there.
Deep breathing is an excellent relaxation technique. I do this several times a day, and I suggest you do, too. Try this: Take a deep breath, drawing it in slowly for five seconds. Hold for five seconds. Deep breath out for five seconds. Hold for five seconds. Repeat four or five times.
You'll be surprised how effective this is. I always take a few deep breaths before someone takes my blood pressure. It seems to lower my BP. I give you a long list of ways to reduce stress in Stay Healthy by Reducing Stress.
Today, let's discuss exercise. Lots of studies show that getting 30 minutes of light exercise, like walking, biking or working out at the gym can significantly reduce your stress and help you get healthier. In addition to daily walking, I do 30 minutes of yoga. I have found that yoga is essential to my stress management. What works for you?
Eat for Health
Food can either heal you or hurt you, and there are a lot of factors that go into the rubric. An article by the Mayo Clinic, "10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure without Medication," noted that caffeine is one of those "foods" that can show up on either side of the equation.
What About Caffeine?
People who regularly drink caffeinated beverages may see no long-term effects, but the jury is still out on it. However, for people who rarely consume caffeine, it can raise your blood pressure several points.
"To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine," the article says.
Are You Salty or Sweet?
Salt is another potential problem food. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure. In general, it's recommended that you limit your daily salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon total). It would be even better if you kept it to 1,500 mg or less, according to Mayo Clinic's article.
How do you do that? Avoid processed foods, choose fresh vegetables instead of canned, cook with herbs instead of salt, do not add salt to your food at the table, and avoid salty foods like chips and ham.
There are three minerals that help with blood pressure regulation: calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Let's talk about how these minerals help in regulating blood pressure and what foods you can eat to provide these nutrients.
Calcium helps blood vessels tighten and relax when needed. It’s also critical for healthy bones. It helps in the release of hormones and enzymes needed for body functions. Some studies say too much calcium is associated with heart disease, but most people do not get enough calcium on a daily basis. Nevertheless, do not take calcium supplements without clearing it with your doctor.
Foods that provide calcium are dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), fish with bones (canned salmon, sardines), legumes (beans, lentils), dark leafy greens (kale, collards), figs, and chia.
Magnesium is essential for regulating blood pressure. It helps blood vessels relax, assists in regulating BP, blood sugar, and muscle and nerve function, and helps you sleep. Some medications, such as diuretics, can strip magnesium from the body.
It's unlikely you will get too much magnesium from eating food containing it. On the other hand, if you ingest too much magnesium in supplement form, you may get diarrhea. Do not take magnesium supplements without your doctor's approval.
To improve your magnesium intake, eat lots of green, leafy vegetables for the best result. Other foods that provide magnesium are almonds, cashews, flaxseed, soy, tofu, and black-eyed peas and other legumes.
Potassium helps with relaxing the walls of the blood vessels and lowers BP, protects against muscle cramping, sends electrical signals to the nervous system and the heart. The best source of potassium is food! Bananas, oranges, apricots, cantaloupes, prunes, raisins, broccoli, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peas, cucumbers, and legumes such as beans all contain potassium.
Do not take any supplements without discussing it with your doctor, especially potassium. Too much potassium can cause irregular heart rhythms.
Listen to the Doctor
Remember, you may need medications to fully manage your blood pressure. I need them. I follow my doctor's advice, am compliant with my medications, and do all the things I've recommended here for you. And I'm happy to say, my blood pressure is always normal. I encourage you to talk to your doctor and follow your doctor's advice. But learn how to eat better to help manage your blood pressure naturally, too.
What's On The Menu?
Take a look at the lists of foods above. You can easily see that your daily diet should include dark green, leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, colorful starchy foods like sweet potatoes and peas, and some yogurt or salmon. Balance your plate with half a plate of fruits and vegetables, one-quarter whole grains and one-quarter lean protein.
If you eat like this, you will feel satisfied while also helping to manage your blood pressure and blood sugar. Get some daily exercise, and you may start to feel ten years younger!
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This article was originally posted on Recipe Idea Shop March 8, 2021.
Disclaimer: The author is not a health professional or nutritionist. She is offering her research and personal reflections about her health journey and is not providing any type of medical or nutritional advice. This post is for informational purposes only. It is offered as a tool for people to discover their own suspected food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. Readers are highly encouraged to read, write, and reflect on the ideas presented. Consult your healthcare professional before initiating any dietary or exercise program.