Recently, I witnessed a woman rushed to the hospital. According to what we heard, she had just slumped in the church after testifying to God’s goodness upon her life and for making her clock 60. Unfortunately, that was the last time her family heard her voice.
On getting to the hospital, she had given up the ghost. The doctor said, medically this will only happen when your blood pressure is high and you have failed to control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle.
She added that on several occasions, they have seen cases whereby a man has just finished doing his laundry or where a woman has just gone to take her bath and before you know, he or she has slumped and died.
Dr Deborah Lee, health and medical writer, with an emphasis on women’s health, has now shed more light on how you can naturally lower your blood pressure without having to see your medical doctor.
Research has shown that having high blood pressure increases your risk of strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. This story is about to show you what you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally.
All the suggestions on the list below have been shown to lower blood pressure. However, you won’t be able to do them all at once. Pick one item from the list and try it put it into action. Once that’s established, pick a second one, and so on. Maybe try a new one, once a month. Think how far you will have come by this time next year!
Shed that pounds
Even losing 5 per cent of your body weight, this will significantly lower your blood pressure. If you weigh 100 kg, a 5 per cent weight loss is 5kg (11 pounds). By losing 2 pounds a week, you could do this in 6 weeks.
Research shows that a 4 kg weight loss will lower systolic and diastolic pressure by 4.5 and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively.
There are many different ways to lose weight but avoid fat diets. These may help you lose weight in the short term, but you need to make changes to your diet which are sustainable in the long term. Losing weight and keeping it off means changing your diet forever. Your diet need to be nutritionally complete, varied, and interesting.
Take in healthy diet
Your diet is crucial for your blood pressure. Your body needs a nutritionally complete, varied, and balanced diet, for optimal health.
A good example is the Mediterranean Diet – a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. These contain large quantities of antioxidants – molecules that counteract the cellular damage which occurs every day in your body. They also help to prevent atherosclerosis – the major underlying cause of heart disease and stroke. The diet also contains healthy, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, helps lower cholesterol.
Many medical studies have shown the Mediterranean Diet does have a positive effect to lower blood pressure, but so far, it has not been possible to quantify the effect.
Avoid processed foods which are often high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt. Examples of processed foods include – bacon, sausage, salami, sausage rolls, pastries, crisps, cakes, biscuits, pastries, and ready-made/microwave meals.
Have you heard of the DASH diet? DASH standards for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This is similar to the Mediterranean Diet but also means lowering your salt intake. As an average, those on the DASH diet lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressures by 12 mmHg and 5 mmHg, respectively. However, the DASH diet is not designed as a weight loss diet.
Avoid taking too much salt
You may not realise that having too much salt in your bloodstream increases your blood pressure.
After a plate of salty chips, your bloodstream is teaming with sodium chloride (salt). To lower the blood concentration of sodium, your kidneys have to work hard and reabsorb a lot of water. This increases your blood volume and means your heart is under increased stress pumping this increased load.
Salt is often hidden in foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread, salad dressings, sauces, and frozen foods.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends no more than 5g salt per day – most UK adults eat around 9/12 mg/day – twice this amount.
Increase your dietary fibre
Many studies have shown that increasing the amount of fibre in your diet lowers both blood pressure and cholesterol.
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate, which is indigestible. However, it plays an important role in digestion as it bulks out intestinal contents, stimulates the transit of food through the gut, and prevents constipation. In the small intestine, fibre binds to cholesterol from food and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Replacing refined grains with whole grains – which have a much higher fibre content, will help lower your cholesterol.
Fibre-rich foods include whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta – ‘brown foods’, pulses, nuts and seeds, and many fruits and vegetables including potato skins.
Your blood pressure increases when you smoke as a direct effect of nicotine. Your heart is also beating faster. Smoking if you are taking blood pressure medication can also reduce the effect of the medication.
Smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis – the condition in which fatty deposits are laid down in arterial walls. If you have high blood pressure, whatever the reason, these atherosclerotic vessel walls are more prone to blockage or rupture – causing strokes and heart attacks. If you have high blood pressure, controlling your cholesterol levels is vital.
Within 24-hours of stopping smoking, your blood pressure will have started to go down. There are so many benefits from stopping smoking
There has never been a better time to quit. Find out about varenicline (Champix) – the drug which blocks nicotine cravings and has helped so many smokers to quit.
Engage in more exercise
Research consistently shows that doing regular physical exercise lowers blood pressure. The mechanisms behind this are complex and not completely understood, however, in principle this is because your heart becomes stronger and is pumping more efficiently, and the resistance in your arterial walls tends to fall.
There are numerous other benefits of exercise. This is known to reduce the dangerous metabolic conditions – oxidative stress and chronic systemic inflammation – and also to accelerate weight loss.
The current NHS recommendation is to undertake 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This could be 5 x 30 minutes a day. During the day this could be broken down into 3 x 10-minute sessions. Moderate-intensity exercise is any exercise that makes you slightly out of breath – such as brisk walking, which is easy to do from home.
In studies of people using pedometers, walking 10,000 steps a day has been shown to reduce blood pressure. The more steps you take, there are further decreases in blood pressure.
Lack of sleep is linked to high blood pressure. It’s important to get 7 hours of good quality sleep per night. Don’t think a lie-in at the weekend can make up for it either – sleeping for too long also increases your blood pressure.
At night, if you don’t sleep, this increases the resting tone of your blood vessels, due to consistent stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system. Sleep deprivation and high blood pressure are linked.
Limit the amount of alcohol you consume
Binge drinking is associated with atherosclerosis. Long term chronic drinking is associated with hypertension. The best way to help your blood pressure is to either stop drinking alcohol altogether or to make sure you only drink within recommended limits.
Men and women are recommended to drink only 14 units of alcohol per week. This should be spread over 3 or 4 days – not drunk all at once.
Alcohol is also associated with abnormal heart rhythms and the heart condition, cardiomyopathy.
Stress affects your body in many different ways. Being under stress often results in difficulty sleeping, and you may start making poor dietary choices, and be putting on weight. This will all increase your risk of high blood pressure.
If you are under stress take time to think about the causes.
Cut back on caffeine
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.
Although the long-term effects of caffeine on blood pressure aren’t clear, its possible blood pressure may slightly increase.
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. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
It’s interesting that high blood pressure is often not caused by just one thing. It’s a multitude of factors which are all interlinked. Your body is like a well-oiled machine, and if one bit goes wrong, the rest quickly follows. You can see that if you attend to all the factors in this post, one by one, your health will improve, and your blood pressure will improve too.
Some people are genetically susceptible to high blood pressure, which means the will always need to take medication. However, medicines can’t take away the fundamental importance of good health.