Scientists have long debated the effects of caffeine on blood pressure. But an analysis of 34 studies seems to have delivered a verdict. On average, consuming 200 to 300 mg caffeine (the amount found in one or two cups of coffee) raises systolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg. And the effects can last for up to three hours. (For reference, 8 ounces of drip coffee contain 100-125 mg of caffeine; the same amount of tea, 50 mg; an equal quantity of cola, about 40 mg.)
Cinnamon is another tasty seasoning that requires little effort to include in your daily diet, and it may bring your blood pressure numbers down. One study done in rodents suggested that cinnamon extract lowered both sudden-onset and prolonged high blood pressure. However, the extract was given intravenously. It’s unclear if cinnamon consumed orally is also effective.
A study, done in December of 2009, was published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics. They gave a group of participants 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder daily for several weeks. The results showed a significant reduction in blood pressure. Combined with ginger and cinnamon, both warming spices that improve circulation, you can make a lovely tea to help your heart get healthy.
Consider once again the analogy of the garden hose. If you turn on the water “harder,” there is more pressure in the hose. Excessive salt in the diet can result in excessive fluid volume in the blood, which results in elevated blood pressure. This cause, too, is reversible, as a plant-based diet of whole, natural foods, devoid of added salt, is naturally low in sodium chloride.
Flax seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure. A recent review suggested taking 30–50 grams of whole or ground seeds per day for more than 12 weeks to get the best benefits. Flax seed may protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease by reducing serum cholesterol, improving glucose tolerance, and acting as an antioxidant.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds that is also low in sodium, saturated fat, added sugar, and cholesterol is important for your heart. There is a diet specifically geared toward lowering blood pressure. It’s called the DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. Talk to your doctor or make an appointment with a dietitian if you need help making changes to your diet.
Patients may be rushed and anxious when they’re in the doctor’s office, resulting in higher-than-normal blood pressure readings. Home monitors let patients measure and record blood pressure throughout the day for greater accuracy. Patients can keep a log of their numbers and bring the log and the monitor to their doctor’s appointment to check for accuracy.
3. Implement strategies to lower inflammation. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies connect high blood pressure with chronic inflammation, a driving force for nearly every disease on the planet. Lowering inflammation starts with what you put on your fork. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught seafood (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), freshly ground flax and chia seeds, spices like turmeric, and plenty of colorful plant foods. Good sleep, stress management, exercise, and the right nutrients can also help lower inflammation.
A study1 published earlier this year discovered that those who consumed 74 grams or more per day of fructose (the equivalent of about 2.5 sugary drinks) had a 77 percent greater risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg. (For comparison, a normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.) Consuming 74 grams or more of fructose daily also increased the risk of a 135/85 blood pressure reading by 26 percent, and 140/90 by 30 percent.
Cold-water fish. Increasing serum measurements of DHA/EPA, markers of fish intake, are related to lower blood pressure (12, 13, 14). However, steer clear of most fish oil supplements and instead have patients obtain beneficial nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. A recent analysis showed that the three top-selling fish oils in the United States contained oxidized lipids that may be causing more harm than good (15). Beyond DHA and EPA, fish also have selenium, zinc, iron, and a highly absorbable protein that also may reduce blood pressure (16). Aim for cold-water fatty fish three times a week.