Diet & Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Blood Pressure
Today one in three American adults have hypertension and another one in three have prehypertension. That means that two-thirds of Americans are affected by high blood pressure. High blood pressure treatment is costing $48.6 billion annually to treat and it is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death in the United States.
Blood pressure-lowering medications include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers. Many times, more than one medication is needed to control hypertension.
High blood pressure medications come with some side effects. Like headaches, depression, dizziness, sleep problems, erectile dysfunction and cardiac or renal dysfunction. Good news is that making some changes in your diet and lifestyle has the potential to reverse high blood pressure without the need to take medication.
Changing what you eat
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of refined grains, added sugars and industrial seed oils, all contribute to developing high blood pressure. The following food guidelines can help to lower blood pressure naturally.
Sugar – Processed foods are loaded with extra sugar to make them more appealing. Make sure you are reading your labels and limiting foods that have over 5 grams per serving. Better yet, limit your packaged and processed foods and get most of your food from the produce and meat department.
Eat more cold-water fish - Cold-water fish like wild caught salmon or sardines are high in DHA/EPA. Both are related to lower blood pressure. They also have selenium, iron, zinc and a highly absorbable protein that also may reduce blood pressure. Aim for 3 – 4 servings of cold-water fish per week.
Potassium – High potassium intake is associated with lower blood pressure. The recommended amount per day is 4,700mg and the average American only consumes 2,800mg per day. Starchy veggies and tubers are good sources of potassium. Aim to have half cup per meal per day. Good sources are beets, cassava root, plantains, sweet potatoes and winter squashes. Avocados are also high in potassium.
Magnesium – High magnesium intake is associated with lower blood pressure and may have a synergistic effect with potassium. Increasing both nutrients while reducing your sodium intake can lower blood pressure to the same extent as a prescription. Nuts, seeds, beet greens, spinach and dark chocolate are good food sources.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Be sure to have your vitamin D levels tested regularly. More people today are deficient in vitamin D. Once you know your levels you can supplement to get your levels back into a healthy range.
Vitamin K2 – Helps to keep calcium from residing in blood vessels, to help to prevent hypertension and calcification. There are two different types of Vitamin K, 1 and 2. They have very different forms and functions. K1 is abundant in leafy green greens and many other foods. K2 sources are more uncommon and it is found in egg yolks and in butter from grass-fed cows.
Salt – Restricting salt too much can increase the risk of death from CVD. Keep your daily salt intake at 3,600 mg or 1.5 teaspoons per day. Best way to keep your intake of salt at the normal level is to avoid processed foods. They are high in add salt and sugar.
Weight Loss – 80% of American adults are overweight or obese. Gaining weight will increase your blood pressure and losing weight will lower it. Losing weight should always be done in a healthy sustainable way. Avoid the diets claiming fast weight loss. Odds are that you will gain the weight back and maybe some more. Aim for losing 1 – 2 pounds per week by focusing on eating real whole foods.
Exercise – Fitting in moderate exercise will help to lower blood pressure. This doesn’t mean you have commit hours of hard-core cardio to see a difference. Start with a daily 20-minute walk. Do a search for exercise videos on your streaming services like Prime or Netflix. Whatever exercise you do, make sure its one that you can do on a regular basis. If your blood pressure is really high, check with your doctor first before you start any exercise program.
Sleep – Poor-quality, limited or excess sleep are all associated with increased blood pressure. You should aim for seven hours of quality sleep every night to help keep your blood pressure at normal levels.
Meditation – Regular meditation helps with blood pressure and enhances insulin resistance. Prime video does have mediation videos. Just do a search for meditation.
Stress Management – Stress is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. The above lifestyle changes of getting better sleep, more exercise and some time-out time for meditation will do a lot for controlling your stress.
Need help in making changes?
Odds are that you know all this but are having issues putting diet and lifestyle changes into practice. That’s where I come in. As a nutritionist and health coach, I work with you to figure out a plan to make and maintain these important diet and lifestyle changes. Connect for a free 30-minute consult to see if I’m the right fit for you.
Hello! I'm Jori Zimmerman, a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Savvy. I work with individuals that are looking to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will lead them to living a healthier and higher quality of life.