Certain groups of people—the elderly, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure—are more likely than others to have blood pressure that's particularly salt-sensitive. But because there's no way to tell whether any one individual is at risk, everyone should consume less sodium, says Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise. So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand.
Much of the salt we ingest comes from fast food, ready-made meals, bread and soft drinks – things to avoid when on a low-carbohydrate diet. This will lower your salt intake automatically. Furthermore, the hormonal effects of LCHF make it easier for the body to dispose of excess salt through urine; this can explain the slight lowering of blood pressure.
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.
Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest. "Some patients get inflammation from refined carbohydrates, which will increase blood pressure," says Matthew J. Budoff, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac CT at the Division of Cardiology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Diabetics often have lower recommendations for blood pressure, the maximum normal value being seen as 130/80-85. However, it’s questionable whether it’s a good idea to medicate your blood pressure levels down to those values. Diabetics can probably stick to approximately the same upper limit as people with heart disease: 140/90 (according to new studies and expert comments, as well as the latest recommendations from the American Diabetes Association, ADA).
You can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by switching to the DASH diet. The DASH diet is based on 2,000 calories a day. It's rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It's also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. According to studies, adopting a DASH diet can reduce systolic blood pressure by eight to 14 points. The goal is to keep you blood pressure goal is less than 120/80.
TM was developed in India in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It has had its fair share of celebrities, from the Beatles to Madonna, swear by it. The technique involves using mantra (sounds or chants) to focus meditate while one sits for about 15 minutes with the eyes closed. It gained some notoriety/free publicity in 1977 when a US Court ruled against a TM program being taught in New Jersey schools as being "overtly religious in nature". The program ended up getting scrapped, but the case also helped TM get even more attention in the US. This was followed paradoxically by a comeback by TM when in a sort of "quasi-recognition" by the establishment, the Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, received $20 million in NIH (National Institute of Health) funding to study the effects of TM on human health!
The American Health Association actually looked at different kinds of meditation techniques ranging from focussed attention to Transcendental meditation (TM), and contemplative forms like Zen and mindfulness techniques. Out of these, TM was found to have a modest effect on blood pressure reduction, but whether it is superior to other techniques is hard to say since head-to-head trials have not taken place.
A comprehensive exercise regimen, such as my Peak Fitness program, is very important in producing long-term benefits in people with high blood pressure. Nearly every program should incorporate anaerobic sprint or burst-type exercises one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
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.
For a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University looked at how drinking three daily servings of hibiscus tea over six weeks changed blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension or mild high blood pressure. They found reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially in people with higher systolic blood pressure to start. Hibiscus tea is loaded with antioxidants, including phenols and anthocyanins, which might explain the effect.
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:
The reasons for this astonishing success are not yet entirely understood. Certainly, two of the major causes of high blood pressure are being addressed: excessive dietary salt is completely eliminated, and it is likely that some patients experience some reversal of the atherosclerosis process. However, Dr. Campbell has suggested that additional mechanisms may be partly responsible for fasting’s remarkable effects, such as the rapid reduction of a phenomenon known as “insulin resistance.”
There are many good options when it comes to such medication. Examples are ACE (angiotensin-converting-enzyme) inhibitors or AII-blockers (angiotensin II receptor blockers) such as Enalapril or Losartan. If this kind of medication doesn’t give the desired effect, you might have to add other medication such as so-called calcium antagonists (e.g. Felodipin) or a mild diuretic (can be found as a combined pill with Enalapril and Losartan).
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
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.
Ginger, the spicy root often used in Asian cooking, could also help lower blood pressure. According to M. Jan Ghayur and A. Gilani from The Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan and published in the January 2005 issue of the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology," ginger can reduce blood pressure by blocking the voltage-dependent calcium channels. MedlinePlus agrees that ginger does reduce high blood pressure, but individuals who take medication for their high blood pressure should use ginger with precaution because ginger might lower it too much or cause an irregular heartbeat.