New research shows that 46 percent of Americans are now categorized as having hypertension, while that number used to be closer to 38 percent. Nine in 10 Americans are expected to develop high blood pressure by the age of 65. This means a huge portion of the population is at an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and even blindness. Every medical organization agrees we should start with diet and lifestyle changes to improve blood pressure.
Balanced blood pressure is critical for optimal health and wellness, as blood pressure increases, your heart has to work harder, cumulatively damaging the walls of your arteries and creating inflammation. Ideally, you want your blood pressure to be less than or equal to 120/80. Diet and lifestyle choices like exercise and stress management can work wonders in supporting optimal cardiovascular health.
Frequently there are no high blood pressure symptoms as blood pressure increases. Some warning signs for very high blood pressure, however, can include: Chest pains, confusion, headaches, ear noise or buzzing, irregular heartbeat, nosebleed, tiredness and vision changes.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to complications. They include the following: Heart attack or stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, kidney problems, eye problems, metabolic syndrome, changes with memory or understanding and dementia.
The conventional approach to treating high blood pressure is through medication. Medications are known for having side effects and for high blood pressure treatments, these can be quite serious, including dizziness, headaches and fatigue.
Functional medicine aims to focus on the cause of a medical condition rather than the symptoms. Conventional medical approaches can be quick to use drugs to control the associated symptoms rather than solving the underlying issue. Here are some simple adjustments for decreasing your blood pressure naturally.
First, take a look at your diet.
Sugar: Increased consumption of sugar – especially sugar-sweetened beverages like soda – is associated with high blood pressure. Reducing sugar intake has shown to lower blood pressure. An easy approach to eating for optimal blood pressure is to get a variety of colors from lots of vegetables and some fruits.
Potassium: Lowering sodium and increasing potassium intake is also beneficial. You can naturally increase potassium through eating vegetables and fruits.
Cold-water fish: Eating cold-water fish three times a week is an effective way to reduce vascular inflammation.
Magnesium: This has shown to reduce blood pressure and can be found in nuts, seeds, spinach, beet greens and chocolate.
Antioxidants: These are a big help and can be found in many of the foods already listed.
Folate: A diet containing plenty of folate may benefit blood pressure. The best place to find folate is in green leafy vegetables, pulses, avocados, citrus fruits and berries.
Second, there are a number of steps you can take in terms of behavioral and lifestyle change to lower your blood pressure.
Sleep: Both short sleep duration and poor sleep quality increase the risk that you’ll develop high blood pressure.
Sunlight: Exposure to ultraviolet light increases the production of a chemical in our bodies that helps our bodies to relax.
Meditation: Studies have shown this can be effective for lowering blood pressure.
Shed some extra weight: This is a big help. For every five percent of excess weight lost, you can lower your blood pressure by three points.
Get regular exercise: Forty minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times per week and you can lower your blood pressure by up to five points. There are a ton of other health benefits as well when doing this.
Deep breathing: Even short periods of doing this have shown to modestly lower blood pressure.
Portion control: Focus on filling up on the healthy things first, so you’re less likely to crave the unhealthy stuff. Watch your portion sizes and practice mindful eating to make sure you give your body what it needs to feel good, but not too much that weighs you down.
Quit smoking: Smoking damages your blood vessels and raises the risk for various heart problems.
Avoid stress: Simplify your schedule and find ways to shift your perspective on things to avoid adding unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Biofeedback: This is the process of becoming aware of the body’s physiological functions and has been shown to effectively reduce blood pressure.
Third, several supplements have been shown to be quite effective for lowering blood pressure. Research suggests that when combined together, diet and lifestyle changes and supplements can be even more effective than drug treatment. The following are some supplements to consider.
CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that plays an important role in protecting the heart. A good dose is between 100-225 mg per day.
Garlic: Clinical trials have shown that long-acting garlic supplements have a modest but significant impact on blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Approximately 10,000 units of allicin is required for the desired effect.
Magnesium: Taken in supplemental form at doses of 500-1,000 mg per day over an eight-week period has been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. Try chelated forms of magnesium such as magnesium glycinate for optimal absorption and tolerance.
Vitamin C: This can modestly reduce blood pressure. The recommended dose is 1,000 mg a day. Liposomal forms of Vitamin C are much better absorbed than typical oral preparations.
Potassium: The main dietary sources of potassium are starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato and plantain, fruits like bananas and some species of fish like halibut, rockfish and salmon. If you are not eating these foods, you may want to supplement with 1,000-2,000 mg a day. You should check with your doctor as potassium supplements over a long period of time may lead to mineral imbalances.