By Dr Laurie Teitelman, ND
Modifications to your diet and lifestyle can make a huge impact on your overall health. When it comes to blood pressure, you can see tremendous results by making a few small, critical changes to your diet, as there are some important foods that can make a big difference…
It is essential that you work with your doctor on stabilizing your blood pressure because untreated high blood pressure (BP), or hypertension, may silently damage organs in the body and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, brain hemorrhage, kidney disease and vision loss over time.
What is considered the ‘ideal’ BP? Textbook BP is 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). What is too high? Anywhere above this! When the top number of your BP reading (systolic BP represents the pressure generated when the heart beats) gets above 140, or the bottom number (diastolic BP manifests as the pressure in the vessels as the heart relaxes in order to refill itself) remains above 90 for two or more doctor visits, we consider this too high. Anywhere in between this range is considered pre-hypertension, which puts you at higher risk of developing hypertension.
Which foods can help? Let’s start with the vegetables, since they are a great source of fiber, are packed with calcium, magnesium and antioxidants which are all protective for the cardiovascular system. Various studies have demonstrated a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure using garlic. Yes, plain old garlic, either fresh, cooked into your foods or in supplement form, has been clinically shown to be of use in patients with mild-high BP. This powerful, natural anti-microbial agent also works to thin out and reduce the clotting ability of the blood. Parsley is a natural diuretic that works using a similar mechanism to prescription diuretic medications, although without the side effects; try it fresh as a salad, in supplement form or soaked in boiling water and sipped as a tea. Celery works in a similar manner, so enjoy a few stalks each day as a great, heart-healthy snack. Carrots can clean out your arteries – enjoy them fresh or as a juice!
Other veggies to use are baked potatoes and bananas, which are filled with potassium, a great way to rid the body of excess sodium. Magnesium is a powerful mineral that acts as a natural calcium-channel blocker to relax our muscles, detoxify our liver and can be very helpful in lowering elevated BP. Find magnesium and calcium in dark leafy greens like spinach, in lentils, beans and seeds.
Like it hot? The capsicum in cayenne pepper has some properties to prevent or slow atherosclerosis, which can contribute to hypertension. Use fresh or dried herbs and spices in place of salt for flavor and antioxidant protection: basil, black pepper, cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, curry, dill, saffron, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. When we ingest salt, it absorbs excess water and can increase our blood vessel volume, so the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your salt intake to less that 2.4g per day; try Himalayan, Celtic or Mediterranean Sea salts instead of regular table salt.
What about fish? Ample research suggests that fish oil may have a modest to significant effect on lowering elevated BP. Supplementing with fresh, wild-caught fatty fish packed with omega-three fatty acids can restore your body’s healthy fat balance and protect it from any anti-inflammatory reactions that may be going on within.
Sweet tooth? Dark chocolate is jam-packed with antioxidants for healthy blood vessels as well as magnesium, but be sure to use chocolate with over 80% cocoa! All you need is one little 30 calorie-square of chocolate to help lower your BP.
Goals: To help maintain your BP around 120/80 mmHg or less, keep your heart healthy with plenty of exercise, fresh air, deep sleep, pure clean water and enjoy a well-balanced diet packed with fresh fruits and vegetables (similar to the DASH Diet) which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C & E as well as bioflavonoids, a daily multivitamin, good fats found in nuts and seeds, lean, moderate alcohol intake, clean and organic grass-fed meats, chicken and turkey as well as wild caught fish. These foods will keep you at a healthy weight and replace the need for sodium and artificial flavorings and chemicals hidden in processed sugary foods like pastries, as well as nasty trans-fats found in fast foods which clog our arteries and impede on our heart’s healthy functioning over time. Love your heart; start today.