High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 26 percent of the population worldwide, and nine in ten North Americans are expected to develop high blood pressure by the age of sixty-five.
With this in mind, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that keeping your blood pressure under control is one of the most important things you can do to extend your lifespan and live a high quality life.
Elevated blood pressure is a true pandemic in our modern world since many aspects of our society, characterized by excessive intake of processed and refined foods, high consumption of seed oils, sedentary behavior, chronic sleep deprivation, a lack of sun exposure and excess use of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, all lead to hypertension.
Many people just assume that if they have elevated blood pressure they can take medication and voila, the problem is solved. However, many studies have shown that drug therapy is not effective.
And so, what can you do to bring down your blood pressure? Luckily there are many many proven ways to do this, that do not require medication.
- Sugar. Increased consumption of sugar is associated with high blood pressure, and reducing sugar intake has been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Potassium. High dietary intake of potassium is associated with lower blood pressure. Potassium is found in many unprocessed (aka not from a box) foods such as whole grains and vegetables.
- Cold-water fish. Studies have shown that one of the main active compounds in omega 3 foils found in cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel, are very effective at reducing blood pressure. If you don’t like fish you can take an omega 3 capsule to also help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
- Magnesium. A high dietary intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Nuts, seeds, spinach, beet greens, and dark chocolate are the highest food sources of magnesium. Magnesium’s effect on blood pressure is magnified when combined with increased potassium intake. In fact, increasing potassium and magnesium intake together can lower blood pressure as much as a single medication.
- What about salt? We’ve been told for years that a high salt intake is one of the primary risk factors for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Some studies do suggest that restricting salt can lower blood pressure, but the evidence supporting a connection between salt intake and cardiovascular disease is weak at best. What’s more, some evidence suggests that restricting salt too much may be harmful to our health. Reducing processed (salt laden foods) and eating a whole foods diet will ensure you get a proper amount of salt.
There are a number of steps you can take in terms of behavioral and lifestyle change to lower your blood pressure. These include:
- Weight loss. This is a no brainer, but excess body fat can raise blood pressure, and reducing it can lower blood pressure.
- Exercise. Endurance exercise, strength training, high-intensity interval training and simply moving around more during the day (outside of a distinct exercise period) have all been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure.
- Sleep. Both short sleep duration and poor sleep quality increase the risk that you’ll develop high blood pressure. Magnesium not only helps to improve sleep, but reduce blood pressure too :)
- Sunlight. Exposure to sunshine increases the production of a chemical in our bodies called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator; it helps our blood vessels to relax, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
- Meditation. Several studies have shown that meditation can be effective for lowering blood pressure via its relaxing effects on the nervous system.
- Deep breathing. Deep breathing is part of many traditional practices and even short periods of deep breathing have been shown to modestly lower blood pressure. Using deep-breathing techniques over weeks to months may lead to long-term reductions in blood pressure. Research suggests that three to four fifteen-minute sessions per week of deep breathing are sufficient to have this effect.