High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that affects 1 in 5 people in Canada and 1 billion people worldwide. People who do not learn to control their blood pressure are at serious risk of heart disease and stroke.
What are examples of good and bad blood pressure?
Testing your blood pressure is a good way to avoid high blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension, and keep your health in check.
Your blood pressure test will show two numbers:
- Systolic (the first number) – measures the blood pressure being exerted against your artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic (the second number) – measures the blood pressure being exerted against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
For example, a blood pressure reading of “120/80 mm Hg” or lower is considered normal. If your results fall into this category, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
Anything reading of “140/90 mm Hg” or higher is considered dangerous. At this stage, doctors will likely prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes. If you blood pressure reaches this level, contact your doctor immediately.
Visit heart.org for a full breakdown of blood pressure readings, and stay in control of your body.
Which number is more important?
In most cases, systolic blood pressure (the first number) is more important since it is a major determinant for cardiovascular disease in people over 50. Typically, your systolic blood pressure will rise with age due to long-term plaque buildup, increased stiffness in the large arteries, and increased probability of cardiovascular diseases.
Sometimes, elevated diastolic blood pressure (the second number) can also be used to diagnose HBP. According to recent studies, the risk of heart disease and stroke-related death among people ages 40 to 89 doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg.
How do I control blood pressure without medication?
If you were recently diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be wondering if you must take medication to bring your numbers down. The answer is no. In fact, there are many things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally, even without medication.
If you are currently on medication for HBP, consider trying some of these natural remedies and lifestyle changes.
1. Exercise Regularly
According to the American Heart Association, committing to 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week can lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health.
The best part is, the more exercise you do, the more your blood pressure will be even further reduced, according to the National Walkers’ Health.
2. Reduce Sodium Intake
Some people process sodium well, others do not – just like how some people can handle alcohol better than others. However, about 50% of people with HPB seem to have a sensitivity to salt.
Therefore, if you already have HBP, it’s worth reducing your sodium intake levels to see if it helps.
Stop eating processed foods, eat more organic meats, fresh fruits and use more herbs and spices for seasoning rather than salt.
3. Drink less alcohol
Studies show that regular consumption of alcohol is linked to 16% of HBP cases around the world.
According to this study, drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. To be precise, your blood pressure levels will increase 1 mm Hg for each 10 grams of alcohol consumed.
Therefore, it’s recommended that you limit drinking to no more than one drink a day (if you’re a woman). And no more than two drinks per day for men.
In Canada, a standard “drink” contains about 13.6 grams of “pure” alcohol.
4. Cut back on caffeine
Although caffeine is known to cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, the long-term effects on blood pressure are unknown. That’s because every person reacts to caffeine differently.
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. While others feel the effects more simply because they aren’t regular drinkers of caffeine.
If you are caffeine-sensitive, try cutting back on the dosage to see if it helps your blood pressure.
5. Learn stress management techniques
When you’re stressed, your body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Some of the symptoms of fight-or-flight responses:
- faster heart rate
- constricted blood vessels
- tension in muscles and body
If you are stressed, consider practicing these simple solutions to relax and reduce blood pressure in the body:
- Listen to soothing music
- Working less
- Deep breathing exercises.
6. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
A review of several studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved overall heart health over the short term, including relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
For optimal effects, try non-alkalized cocoa powder, which contains high flavonoid content and no added sugar.
7. Cut weight
If you are overweight, cutting weight can be massively beneficial for your heart health. The effects are even greater when paired with exercise routines.
Losing weight helps your blood vessels expand and contract better, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking is a bad habit that is strongly linked to heart disease.
This is because every puff of a cigarette causes your blood pressure levels to experience a temporary spike. Moreover, the chemicals in tobacco are damaging to blood vessels.
If you are a regular smoker and suffer from HBP, try quitting smoking for a few weeks and see if it reverses your blood pressure levels.
9. Avoid refined carbs and added sugars
Research shows that there is a link between added sugar and HBP levels.
In addition to sugars, refined carbs are known to rapidly convert into sugar, causing problems in your bloodstream.
A 2013 study suggests that low-carb diets may help reduce blood pressure and other heart disease markers.
10. Eat berries
We all know that berries are full of antioxidants and work great in smoothies. But did you know that they are also great for your heart?
That is because berries are full of a natural compound called polyphenols, which are known to improve various markers of heart disease, including blood pressure.
If you are suffering from HBP, add some more berries to your diet!
11. Take natural supplements
Adding natural supplements to your diet is an easy and efficient way to reduce your blood pressure. Here are 7 natural supplements which are clinically proven to reduce HBP:
- Aged garlic extract: this supplement has been used successfully for lowering blood pressure.
- Berberine: originating from ancient Chinese medicine, berberine increases production of nitric oxide, which decreases blood pressure.
- Whey protein: A study published on The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that whey protein improved blood vessel function and lowered blood pressure in participants.
- Fish oil: fish oil is known to benefit overall heart heath, but it is particularly beneficial for improving blood pressures.
- Hibiscus: this special flower is rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, both of which are good for your heart and lowers blood pressure.
- Calcium: For most adults, the recommended dosage is 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day. Click here for a complete list of calcium-enriched foods.
- Potassium: Taking supplements with potassium helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels. Click here for a complete list of potassium-enriched foods.
Summary – Natural Ways to Keep Blood Pressure Low
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce Sodium Intake
- Drink less alcohol
- Cut back on caffeine
- Learn to Manage Stress
- Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
- Lose weight
- Quit Smoking
- Cut added sugar and refined carbs
- Eat berries
- Try meditation or deep breathing
- Take natural supplements
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