How do you check your own blood pressure? It is common to have your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office, but there are many cases where it is important to monitor it at home. It is easy to check blood pressure with an automated machine, but it can also be done manually at home. Learn how to check your own blood pressure and what the results mean. Read now
Consuming dark chocolate or cocoa products rich in flavanols was linked with some reduction in systolic or diastolic blood pressure among people with hypertension or pre-hypertension (but not normal blood pressure), according to a meta-analysis in BMC Medicine. Other research has shown that polyphenols (especially flavanols) in cocoa products are associated with the formation of nitric oxide, a substance that widens blood vessels and eases blood flow—and thereby lowers blood pressure. According to the researchers, future studies should investigate whether genetics plays a role.
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.
“We have many people with hypertension who come to Pritikin,” says Pritikin’s Associate Medical Director Danine Fruge, MD, “and within three days, many have blood pressures that have dropped so low that we need to reduce their medications or take them off their pills altogether. Yes, just three days. That’s how quickly and powerfully our bodies respond to healthy food, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.”
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
6. Add garlic to everything. If you're already suffering from high blood pressure, eating garlic regularly can reduce your blood pressure by about 20 points, or 10 to 15 percent. When garlic is crushed it releases allicin, which decreases blood pressure and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Make sure you let your garlic sit for about 15 minutes after chopping or crushing, to allow the allicin to release. Cook on a low temperature to get the maximum benefit, as a high temperature will kill many of garlic's healing properties.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your long-term health depends on keeping the condition under control. The changes above can all help reduce blood pressure levels to a healthy range and potentially allow you to avoid the need for medication. Still, this is a determination that can only be made by your physician. Speak with your doctor about your potential treatment options and which may be best for your particular situation.
For a study in Nutrition Journal, Australian researchers looked at the effects of beet juice on blood pressure among healthy men and women. Participants drank either beet plus apple juice or plain apple juice, then had their blood pressure monitored over 24 hours. The results: The researchers observed a reduction in systolic blood pressure six hours after participants drank beet juice, especially among the men. Beets naturally contain nitrates, which ease blood pressure.
Salt is everywhere, and high blood pressure (the result of too much salt in our diets) is an American epidemic. New CDC guidelines (and decades-old Pritikin guidelines) advise that most of us should eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. We average 3,500 to 5,000 mg daily. Why are we so blasé about the massive doses of salt we’re consuming? How can we change?.
High blood pressure is not usually something that you can feel or notice, and it can go undiagnosed because there are usually no symptoms. Regardless, high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage, stroke or a heart attack. Therefore, it's important you get your blood pressure checked regularly. Check with your GP or nurse how often to get it checked.
One drink counts as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. "High levels of alcohol are clearly detrimental," says Obarzanek. "But moderate alcohol is protective of the heart. If you are going to drink, drink moderately." (And if you're trying to keep your weight in check, stick to these low-calorie alcoholic drinks recommended by registered dietitians.)
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
Potassium—sometimes called the “un-salt”—can lower blood pressure, but less than 2 percent of Americans get the recommended 4.7 grams of potassium a day. Avocados pack in more potassium than any other fruit or veggie, including bananas, so add some to your sandwich or salad for an nutritional boost. Other potassium-rich foods include cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and lima beans. These are some of the healthiest vegetables and the healthiest fruits you can eat.
In the United States in 2013, high blood pressure resulted in almost 1,000 deaths every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, the first sign may be a stroke or a heart attack, because about one in five U.S. adults with high blood pressure don't know they have it until it seriously damages the heart or weakens blood vessels in the brain.
“It’s important to remind all the healthcare people out there that we need to arm ourselves with every tool in the arsenal,” he said. “That includes medications and procedures of course, but we really need to learn more about lifestyle medicine, and a lot of those gaps that are created during our training, we really need to spend time filling so that we have the tools available to treat diseases better — and more cheaply, for that matter.”
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure reading is usually given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is stated as 120/80.
Eighty million U.S. adults, or one in three, have hypertension (1). Another one in three have prehypertension, defined as blood pressure in the range of 120–139/80–89 mmHg. In addition to costing $48.6 billion annually, hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, chronic renal failure, and stroke (1). Even prehypertension increases the risk of death from CVD (2). Because of its severity, hypertension requires immediate treatment, but prescription drugs may not be the answer.
Consuming garlic is one of the fastest ways to reduce your blood pressure. According to Gloria Benavides, Ph.D., and David Kraus, Ph.D., of Alabama-based UAB Health System, eating garlic not only lowers your blood pressure but also can protect you against cardiovascular disease. They state that the compounds from garlic interact with your red blood cells, which allow your blood vessels to relax and your pressure to naturally lower. In a study published in the July-August 1993 issue of the journal "Pharmacotherapy," F. McMahon and colleagues proved that garlic reduces blood pressure. In this study, participants who had severe hypertension were given a garlic solution of 2,400mg of garlic containing 1.3 percent allicin, an organosulfur compound found in garlic that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. In less than five hours, the participants' sitting blood pressure fell 7/16 mm Hg and within five to 14 hours, all their diastolic pressures dropped significantly.
If you happen to love any of the above alternative approaches, or are doing it as part of your healthy lifestyle, you can continue to do so. Remember they complement, and not necessarily replace traditional approaches and medications that your doctor suggests. You might see only a modest reduction in your blood pressure, but you know what...it is probably not going to hurt either!
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential for your health. Most Americans, however, are getting too much omega-6 in their diet and far too little omega-3. Consuming omega-3 fats is one of the best ways to re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you suffer from insulin resistance. Omega-6 fats are found in corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oil. If you're consuming a lot of these oils, you'll want to avoid or limit them.
We asked clinicians from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute how they advise their patients to keep blood pressure under control. While medication is the right solution for some people, the good news is that lifestyle changes can help reduce — and in some cases replace — the amount of medication needed. It’s a good place to start.
Consuming 4 tablespoons of flaxseed can lower systolic blood pressure in postmenopausal women who have a history of heart disease, a small study found. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which probably explains the effect. Try 2 tablespoons in your oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons over soup or salad later in the day for a tasty crunch. Stock up on these 8 foods that naturally lower blood pressure.
Although certain supplements may be helpful, it's important to understand they should never be used as a substitute for basic lifestyle choices that treat the real cause of the problem. Using only supplements without modifying your lifestyle is an allopathic approach not very different from using drugs. In most instances, it is not likely to be effective. Once you have made some beneficial changes to your lifestyle, you can then consider some of the following supplements as a way to further enhance your health:
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