High blood pressure is a silent killer that can cause damage throughout the body while going completely undetected. According to the CDC, 75 million, or 1 in 3, American adults have high blood pressure. Yet, only about half of those have their condition well-managed. Unfortunately, when not kept under control, high blood pressure can contribute to some very serious health concerns including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Vitamin K2. Adequate vitamin K2 helps keep calcium from residing in blood vessels, thereby preventing hypertension and calcification (19). Vitamins K1 and K2 have different forms and functions. Vitamin K1 is abundant in leafy greens and many other foods, while vitamin K2 sources are more uncommon: natto (fermented soy), some cheeses, butter from grass-fed cows, goose liver, and egg yolks.
2. Take the right nutrients. Talk with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional about the wide range of well-studied nutrients that, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications, can help normalize your blood pressure. One meta-analysis found magnesium supplements could lower blood pressure. Likewise, researchers find a small but significant decline in blood pressure for people with hypertension who use fish oil. (You can get all of fish oil’s benefits combined with anti-inflammatory flax oil and GLA in our Optimal Omega.)
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3. Eat a healthy diet. Food is another powerful medicine. Whether you need to lose weight or not, eating well can improve your blood pressure. That means eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils (such as olive and canola), foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, walnuts and flaxseed, for example) and two or three servings daily of low-fat or nonfat dairy products. It also means avoiding saturated and trans fats.
Most Americans—including 86% of those with high blood pressure—eat more salt than is advised by the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’re one of them, reducing your intake to less than the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon) a day may make a big difference in your blood pressure (and even better if you can stay below the American Heart Association's 1,500-mg daily limit). Even just reducing your sodium intake by 10 or 20% can help, says Dr. Bisognano. “We ask people to decrease their consumption from sky-high to reasonable levels,” he adds. “Learn not to salt your eggs; finish your lunch without a pickle—you want to make little changes you can tolerate for the long term.”
There are more worrisome facts about medications, notes Dr. Fruge. Drug treatment frequently has annoying and sometimes dangerous side effects, and never cures the disease. All too often, blood pressure problems grow progressively worse despite the use of medications. That’s deeply troubling because hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and premature death.
All medications come with a risk of side effects, so why take them if you don’t have to? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about seven out of 10 U.S. adults with high blood pressure use medications to treat their condition. But what many people don’t realize is that you can help control your blood pressure naturally by changing a few daily habits.
Beta blockers decrease the effect of adrenaline on the cardiovascular system, slow the heart rate, and reduce stress on the heart and the arteries. Side effects include worsening shortness of breath if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma; sexual dysfunction; fatigue; depression; and worsening of symptoms if you have peripheral artery disease. Beta-blocker examples include:
The right tunes can help bring your blood pressure down, according to Italian research. Researchers asked 29 adults who were already taking BP medication to listen to soothing classical, Celtic, or Indian music for 30 minutes daily while breathing slowly. When they followed up with the subjects six months later, their blood pressure had dropped by an average of 4 mmHg.
While making these changes may not mean you can immediately go off your blood pressure medications or never have to take them, they will improve your overall health and reduce your risk for developing other diseases, including diabetes and possibly even cancer. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack or kidney damage, and reduce the likelihood that your dose of blood pressure medication will need to be increased in the future.
The very first thing your primary care doctors at The Medical Group of South Florida do when you come in for a visit is check your blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure can cause heart attacks and strokes, and rarely produces detectable symptoms in sufferers until it has done serious damage. Other associated illnesses can include kidney disease, blindness, and dementia.
Differences in gut flora from one person to another appears to have a large effect on whether or not you develop heart disease. If your gut flora is not healthy, your risk is much greater for heart disease, as well as many other chronic health problems. The best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, and natto. An additional benefit of fermented foods is that some of them are excellent sources of vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and heart disease.
If you injure yourself right at the start, you are less likely to keep going. Focus on doing something that gets your heart rate up to a moderate level. If you're physically active regularly for longer periods or at greater intensity, you're likely to benefit more. But don't overdo it. Too much exercise can give you sore muscles and increase the risk of injury.
Initially, these medications were only recommended for people whose blood pressure exceeded 160/100 mmHg, but they are now routinely prescribed when blood pressure approaches 140/90 mmHg, even in the absence of any previous cardiovascular event. Treating mild hypertension with drugs has not been shown to be effective, yet it is common practice (3, 4).
Bananas are one great source of potassium, but there are other tasty ways to get your fill. Potatoes actually pack more potassium than the yellow fruit (and you might be surprised to learn there are plenty of other health benefits of potatoes, too). Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, kidney beans, peas, cantaloupe, honeydew, and dried fruits like prunes or raisins are other good sources. In all, you should aim to get 2,000 to 4,000 mg of potassium a day, Van Horn recommends.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of developing hypertension (20), and large doses of vitamin D (50,000 IU per week) have been shown to lower blood pressure over eight weeks (21). One mechanism by which vitamin D may lower blood pressure is through suppressing renin, which regulates mean arterial blood pressure (22). Sun exposure is an easy and cheap way to get vitamin D.
1. Isometric handgrip exercises. An American Heart Association study found that squeezing a spring-loaded handgrip for two minutes, over a period of 12 to 15 minutes three times a week, can help lower blood pressure. Why? The study found that blood flow returns to your hands after the isometric exercise, improving blood vessel function. Another study reported in the journal Hypertension found this exercise produced a 10% drop in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings when practiced six times a day, five days a week for four weeks.