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How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Diabetes, Heart, blood pressure | October 19, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

Heart Attack, Blood pressure, diabetes

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is abnormally high pressure in the arteries. It is defined as persistent systolic blood pressure more than 140 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mmHg at rest.

High blood pressure with no known cause is referred to as primary hypertension and accounts for 90% of sufferers while for the remaining 10% there is a known cause  i.e. kidney disease, pregnancy etc. This common disorder affects approximately 30% of the population.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flushed face
  • Nosebleeds
  • Tinnitus
  • Fatigue
  • Increased perspiration

Risk factors for Hypertension

Common causes or risk factors that contribute to hypertension include:

  • Family history
  • Existing cardiovascular disease e.g. atherosclerosis and high cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain endocrine conditions e.g. diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy)
  • Stress
  • Certain medications e.g., oral contraceptives, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and excessive amounts of licorice
  • Alcohol and cocaine abuse
  • Smoking
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Cadmium and/or lead poisoning
  • High sodium diet
  • Male gender
  • Over the age of 55
  • Mood disorders, particularly depression, anxiety and anger

How does it happen?

The body has many mechanisms to control blood pressure by changing the amount of blood the heart pumps, the diameter of the blood vessels and the volume of blood in circulation. To cause an increase in blood pressure the following can occur

  • The heart can contract more rapidly to pump more blood.
  • Arterioles (small arteries) can constrict, forcing the blood through a narrower opening.
  • Veins can constrict, forcing more blood into the arteries.
  • Fluid can also be added to the bloodstream if the kidneys decrease their excretion of salt and water, thereby increasing blood volume.

The Dangers

High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer”, as it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms for many years ¾ until a vital organ is damaged. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, aneurysm, kidney damage, heart attack and heart failure and can cause damage to your brain and eyes. It forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around the body and places stress on many of the body’s systems. Making the heart work harder causes it to enlarge and the walls to thicken, this results in its chambers struggling to expand and fill with blood.

A healthy heart

The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce your blood pressure and keep it within normal, healthy ranges.

Diets your heart will love

DASH Diet. Data collected from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) collaborative research group suggest a diet high in fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy and reduced total fat overall.

A low sodium diet and reducing caffeine intake is also beneficial.

The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to be protective to the cardiovascular system. This diet includes eating fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil, cold deep water fresh fish and red wine in moderation. Eating 6g of dark chocolate daily in the evening has been shown to reduce both diastolic and systolic pressure due to the flavonoids in cocoa. It is also recommended to quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption to within healthy limits.

Exercise

There is strong evidence to link the lowering of blood pressure to exercise. Exercise tones the heart and blood vessels keeping them healthy. Aim for 20-60 mins of aerobic activity per day for a minimum of 3 days per week. A study has also found a beneficial effect from a strength training program by causing a significant reduction on arterial blood pressure.

Reduce stress

Don’t discount the effects of stress on the body. It elevates blood pressure, increases blood lipids, alters the way the blood clots and contributes to atherogenesis and vascular changes. Make time for relaxation every day, whether it be reading a book, spending time with friends and family or meditation. Consider herbal support such as valerian or magnolia, not only do they promote relaxation they have also been shown to have a beneficial effect on our blood vessels.

Maintain a healthy body mass index

Being overweight or obese is highly correlated with high blood pressure. Use exercise and a healthy diet to help achieve weight loss in a steady and healthy manner.

Manage your cholesterol

High cholesterol levels contribute to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and cause narrowing of the blood vessels, thus contributing to high blood pressure. Natural supplements such as plant sterols, bergamot and omega-3, and fibres such as psyllium husks can be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels.

Nutrients to take the pressure down

Magnesium is an important mineral for healthy muscles, including your heart and blood vessels. It helps our muscles to relax and therefore helps to dilate blood vessels. It also plays an important role in metabolic syndrome by reducing serum lipids and can be helpful in managing stress.

Arginine is an amino acid that is used by the body to produce nitric oxide. It also helps the blood vessel walls to relax and studies have shown it to provide a significant reduction in blood pressure.

Hawthorn. One of the most useful herbs that acts as a peripheral dilator and antioxidant is hawthorn. As well as having the ability to reduce blood pressure it also has a trophic effect on the heart muscle. Other herbs to consider include dandelion leaves to act as a diuretic and ginkgo in the prevention and treatment of stroke.

Others nutrients important for a healthy heart and blood vessels include omega-3 fish oil, vitamin E and antioxidants such as bioflavonoids. They have all been shown to prevent stiffening of the arterial walls.

Folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are important nutrients to ensure you don’t have a build-up of homocysteine in the body. High levels have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In conclusion, it is important to address the underlying cause of your high blood pressure. Dietary and lifestyle measures are of primary focus in reducing blood pressure, with other nutrients providing further assistant if needed.

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References

Sarris J, Wardle J. (2010). Clinical Naturopathy, Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Beers M. (2003). The Merck Manual of Medical Information (2nd ed.), Pocket Books, United States of America

Samadian F, et al. Lifestyle modifications to prevent and control hypertension. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2016 Sep; 10(5):237-263

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27721223

Park YM, et al. Mediterranean diet, Dietary approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) style diet, and metabolic health in U.S. adults. Clin Nutr. 2016 Sep 8. Pii: S0261-5614(16)30217-5 [Epub ahead of print]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27665232

Jumar A, Schmieder RE. Cocoa flavanol cardiovascular effects beyond blood pressure reduction. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2016 Apr;18(4):352-8

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26514936

MacDonald HV, Johnson BT. Dynamic resistence training as stand-alone antihypertensive lifestyle therapy: a meta-analysis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Sep 28;5(10)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27680663

Dong JY et al. Effect of oral L-arginine supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Am Heart J. 2011 Dec;162(6):959-65

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22137067

Walker AF, et al. Promising hypotensive effect of hawthorn extract: a randomized double-blind pilot study of mild, essential hypertension. Phytother Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):48-54

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11807965

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