Had your blood pressure checked recently? Keeping it in the normal range may be more important for your health than you realize.
High blood pressure remains one of the most significant risk factors in the development of heart disease and stroke throughout the United States.
It can really become a problem as you age because the arteries tend to become harder and more clogged, making it difficult for blood to pass through the inner lumen of the artery. The result? The heart beats harder and faster to try and push the blood around your body more effectively, and this increases your blood pressure inside your arteries.
The problem with high blood pressure—hypertension—is that it can have few if any symptoms until severe damage has been caused in your brain, kidneys, eyes and heart. It’s that serious.
Studies show that lifestyle interventions, including changes in food consumption, can control blood pressure and prevent it from increasing.
I’m big on food and nutrition, of course, so here are some key nutritional tips to lower your blood pressure and keep it low:
Eating more fruits and vegetables will increase your intake of fiber and antioxidants, and this can lower your blood pressure and keep the inside of your arteries clean. These foods are low in calories and tend to not raise blood sugar or insulin levels noticeably. The antioxidants inside foods like berries, spinach, grapes and broccoli can keep inflammation levels under control and prevent blood clots. These foods also are lower in sodium and much higher in potassium; this balance of minerals keeps blood pressure from rising.
Get some sunlight by going outside more often. The “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, helps to prevent damage to your arteries and can lower your risk of heart disease by promoting arterial relaxation inside your arteries. The experience can also relax you, helping you to de-stress. It only takes 20 to 30 minutes per day of UV exposure to reduce your risk of hypertension.
Consuming beets, beet greens and garlic can reduce your blood pressure by decreasing the vascular tone inside your arteries. This is done merely by the fact that these foods can increase the blood levels of nitrates which can relax blood vessels. Allicin in the garlic can also make your blood less sticky and reduce blood-clot formation inside the artery.
Eat more yogurt and fermented foods containing probiotic “friendly” bacteria. These types of foods repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria which, in turn, produce chemicals when in contact with soluble fiber that help to decrease blood pressure.
Drink red wine with your meals. (Yes, you read that right!) One glass of red wine a day is associated with lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels. Red wine contains a polyphenolic compound called resveratrol that can act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It can also keep your arteries relaxed and improve insulin sensitivity.
Consume more fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. These fish contain high amounts of the omega 3 fats which are heart-healthy. Omega 3 fats can lower blood pressure and keep it lower by relaxing the arteries and preventing the build-up of plaques inside the artery lumen. They also reduce inflammation and prevent LDL, “bad,” cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the inside of your arteries.
Adopt these good habits and your blood pressure will be better controlled—and much less likely to become a serious health issue for you.
Taylor, M., “10 New Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally,” Prevention website; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/10-new-ways-lower-your-blood-pressure-naturally, last accessed May 26, 2014.