Has your doctor or pharmacist told you your blood pressure is too high? Elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is two or more blood pressure readings greater than 140 mmHg systolic (top number) or greater than 90 mmHg diastolic (bottom number). Try these easy steps to lowering your blood pressure through diet and lifestyle:
- Low-Salt Diet
Minimize consumption of restaurant foods and packaged foods, including canned soups and frozen entrees, which may be high in sodium. Read food labels and eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, or about 3.75 grams or 2/3 teaspoon of table salt. Leave the salt shaker behind and be creative with herbs and spices. Explore ways to enhance the taste of foods with salt-free flavors such as lemon, garlic, ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme and curry.
- Moderate Physical Activity Increase physical activity to 30 to 60 minutes a day. Remember that every little bit counts, including taking the stairs, walking around the block on breaks, parking farther away in the parking lot, or getting off at an earlier bus stop. If you are overweight, a loss of 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure. It is always a good idea to schedule a physical exam with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Moderate Alcohol Intake and No Smoking Avoid smoking and excess alcohol as these can increase your blood pressure. Substitute with delicious nonalcoholic fruit drinks and herbal teas such as hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice and green tea.
- Stress Reduction Find calming ways to decrease your stress and blood pressure through deep breathing, meditation, counseling, yoga or qigong.
- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Fruits and vegetables provide great sources of blood pressure-lowering nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. Magnesium-rich foods include black beans, okra, spinach, pumpkin seeds and squash seeds. Unless you have kidney disease, you should increase consumption of foods high in potassium such as apricots, bananas, beets, Brussels sprouts and cantaloupe.
These simple dietary and lifestyle changes are safe and effective ways to lower your blood pressure. Uncontrolled hypertension puts you at an increased risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney damage and blindness.
Marisa Pellegrini, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center.