High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because people often show no symptoms at all when their blood pressure becomes elevated. In some cases headaches are a warning sign but many victims feel fine while suffering from dangerous hypertension.
A normal blood pressure reading is 119/79 mm Hg or lower. Prehypertension starts when readings fall between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg. When numbers reach 140/90 mm Hg or higher, patients are diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Throughout the United States, 25 percent of adults are prehypertensive and 31.3 percent of adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leaving high blood pressure high may lead to a variety of serious complications, such as heart attack, aneurysm and stroke. There are several ways to get your blood pressure under control, including ways to do it rather quickly, but safely.
Healthy adults can use foods that lower blood pressure to naturally lower risk of heart disease. Foods that lower blood pressure may help patients control systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure and bring levels within normal limits. Here are some herbs and foods that may help lower blood pressure.
Beans – soy, white, navy, pinto, kidney, black and lima – contain potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps control sodium concentrations in the body. When potassium levels drop, more sodium is retained and blood pressure rises. Adding potassium to your diet can lower sodium retention and help bring blood pressure in line. Magnesium, also present in beans, may lower blood pressure as well, because potassium and sodium work together.
Phthalides are phytochemicals found in celery. These phytochemicals work as muscle relaxers for the heart. As the muscles of the arterial walls relax, blood flow increases and the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard, lowering blood pressure.
Tomatoes contain natural antioxidants, including lycopene and vitamin E. Antioxidants are important because they prevent chemical damage to cells that line the blood vessels. Antioxidant-rich foods that lower blood pressure fight the effects of free radicals and allow the cells lining the blood vessels to produce hypertension-fighting chemicals like nitric oxide.
Green tea is a healthy replacement for coffee that’s proven to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure. Green tea is also a strong antioxidant, which works to reduce the effect of free radicals. Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee. Some researchers believe caffeine constricts blood vessels, causing the heart to increase pressure to pump enough blood throughout the body.
Get Up and Move
Regular exercise is actually a very effective way to lower your blood pressure and you will often start to see results within just a few weeks. The key is regular exercise and not just weekend bursts. You need to start by talking to your healthcare provider and getting some recommendations and from there, develop a plan that you know you can stick to. Even if you can only do 10 minutes at a time to start, this is fine and will be beneficial. Just build up as you build endurance and strength, and better your health. When you are developing your exercise plan, make sure to incorporate a balance of cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training and strength training. Exercise may also lead to weight loss, which will improve hypertension.
Cut Out the Salt
You need some sodium in your diet, but like all things, moderation is key. Someone with high blood pressure should not be taking in more than 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium. Keeping a food journal throughout the day is a good way to keep track of how much sodium you are getting. Be sure to read food labels and for extra help, talk to your healthcare provider and/or a nutritionist. Not eating-out at restaurants is also helpful as a large majority of restaurants have high levels of sodium in their food. Try to cook at home if possible.
Cut Back on Caffeine
This can be difficult for people, especially those who are used to running to the coffee pot when fatigue sets in, but caffeine is a stimulant and, therefore, can and may increase blood pressure. You do not have to give up caffeine entirely, but should limit your intake to less than 200 milligrams each day. If you happen to be someone who is sensitive to caffeine, you may have to limit your intake even more.
Quitting is difficult and is you are more likely to be successful if you partner with your healthcare provider to develop a strategy for quitting. Your healthcare provider can help you gather resources to help you quit. Like caffeine, the nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant and it does raise blood pressure. Tobacco smoke is also toxic to the cells lining the blood vessels, and this contributes to the development of hypertension. If you regularly smoke throughout the day, your blood pressure may remain constantly elevated.