High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms. Unless it’s discovered during a doctor visit or when having a blood pressure check somewhere else, the first sign you have that there’s a problem may be a stroke or heart attack. This is a problem that can’t be ignored, and the first thing a doctor will do is hand you a prescription, but if your blood pressure is only slightly elevated or borderline, there are many other ways to control it. (If it is extremely high, you MUST be under a doctor’s care.)
Most doctors will also tell you to stop smoking (if you do) and hand you a “diet sheet” or something similar, with a few recommendations like reducing the amount of salt you eat, losing weight, exercising more and avoiding pork and caffeine; but that’s as far as they go, and there’s little support offered. There are many more lifestyle and diet changes you can make to lower your blood pressure, and unlike prescription medications, the side effects of these changes are usually GOOD for you.
The first thing you’ll need is a blood pressure monitor, so that you can keep track of changes and ensure you’re staying within the safe range. There are many good quality monitors available, and they all come with easily understood directions that must be followed if you want to get accurate readings. You’ll want to check your blood pressure at least once a day when you first wake up, before you sit up, smoke a cigarette, or anything else. This is when your pressure should be lowest, and will be your “baseline.” (If these numbers are always in the normal or high-normal range, and the only time you have high readings is at the doctor’s office, you may have something called “white-coat hypertension,” which means that the stress of a doctor visit raises your pressure out of your normal range.)
The advice from the doctor is a good starting point, and reducing your salt intake will help, but you also need to learn to read ingredient labels for other sources of sodium like monosodium glutamate (MSG.) Unless the doctor tells you to reduce it more, your diet should include no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, and any food that has more than 600 mg. of sodium per serving should be avoided. (Even lower amounts of sodium per serving may be too much, depending on the serving size. If a package of cookies says that each serving has 150 mg, but the serving size is one cookie, a NORMAL serving of 4 cookies will be 600 mg. After all, how many of us are actually going to only eat one cookie?)
One of the main complaints when you’re reducing sodium in your diet is that the food tastes too bland, but in your own cooking you can replace the salt with herbs and spices like onions, garlic, celery or celery seed, fennel, oregano, black pepper, basil, tarragon, and cayenne pepper; all of which will add flavor; and as a bonus, all contain blood pressure reducing compounds. Adding more tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, leafy greens, and beans to your diet will also help you to control your blood pressure, as they also have a lowering effect.
Another helpful treatment can be adding a magnesium citrate supplement, since half of US adults have low levels of magnesium, and one of the symptoms is high blood pressure. Potassium may also be needed, as one of the side effects of blood pressure medications is reducing potassium levels, but supplements should only be taken if your doctor recommends it. You can safely increase your potassium intake by adding chicken, fish, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, bananas and apricots to your diet.
One of the major causes of hypertension is the high-stress life most of us lead, and learning stress reduction and stress control techniques can have a huge impact on your blood pressure. Techniques like meditation, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, reflexology, and hydrotherapy are all helpful.
Exercise is another important component of any blood pressure reduction program. Not only does the exercise itself directly reduce your blood pressure, it has an indirect effect as well, by reducing your stress levels. The secret is finding a way to exercise that you enjoy and building up slowly, or the added stress of forcing yourself to exercise will counteract the benefits you get from it. The only kinds of exercise that directly reduce blood pressure are those that increase your heart rate and breathing (aerobic exercises) like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and some household chores and yard work. You should build up to 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week; but if 30 minutes at a time isn’t something you can manage because of other health issues, breaking it up into 3 ten minute sessions will also work.
This post has been contributed by Daisy Raybould of RevitaliseYourHealth.com, where she reveals how to be happy, healthy and beautiful using the power of nature’s wonders.
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