By: Michael Clark, MBA, PhD, FAARFM, ABAAHP
“High blood pressure affects about 1 in 3 American adults and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercise, weight management, and a healthy diet are important ways to help prevent high blood pressure. Working out also boosts the effectiveness of blood pressure medication if you’re already being treated for hypertension.” WebMD
Nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure — a heart disease and stroke risk factor — but about a third of them don’t know it, says the American Heart Association.
How do you know if you have hypertension (high blood pressure)?
Blood pressure is measured by Systolic (top number) over Diastolic (bottom number). For example: 120/80. To get an accurate blood pressure measurement, you should take your average of three readings throughout the day. Alternatively, the Mayo Clinic recommends having have your provider evaluate your readings based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings on each of two office visits.
The Mayo Clinic Lists the following for determining your status:
Systolic mg Hg Diastolic in mm Hg
Below 120 and Below 80 Normal blood pressure
120-139 or 80-89 Prehypertension
140-159 or 90-99 Stage 1 hypertension
160 or more or 100 or more Stage 2 hypertension
Lose Excess Fat to Decrease Your Blood Pressure
At Natural Bio Health, we treat many clients who have excess body fat and/or are overweight. Please note the distinction as a client may come to use with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) but their percent body fat may be in the obese area. This is called sarcopenic obesity. The result is an increase in fat mass and a decrease in lean muscle. Your body weight may look OK.
Excess body fat can be as dangerous as excess body weight. In our experience, blood pressure comes down when excess body fat is reduced. Many of our patients come to us with high blood pressure and on medications. As their weight comes down, they are able to reduce then eliminate their medications. “In a seven-year study of people who restricted their salt intake and were on a weight loss program, 80% of the people who stayed on the diet lowered their blood pressure to such a degree that they were able to completely stop their prescription blood pressure medication.”
Many studies have shown that men and women who are most likely to develop high blood pressure are those who are physically inactive. These same studies show consistently that the risk of developing high blood pressure drops as daily physical activity increases. This is true whether the starting point is low, normal or high-normal ranges of blood pressure.
The lack of exercise is an independent risk factor. This means that physical activity can improve blood pressure readings even accounting for other risk factors such as age, smoking, family history of high blood pressure, alcohol, and body mass index.
Reduce Stress and Reduce Hypertension
The stress hormone cortisol can increase blood pressure. At Natural Bio Health clinics, we see clients who are stressed in Austin, Odessa, San Antonio and College Station, Texas. Regardless of where people live, life can be stressful.
Natural calming herbs, quality sleep and sufficient sleep (7-8 hours), breathing exercise, light exercise (too much can raise cortisol, particularly if you are already stressed), meditation and hormone optimization can all help reduce stress. Sometimes, you have to change your life to get rid of debilitating stress (change jobs, locations, etc.). A 12 hour cortisol is recommended to test your cortisol levels. A relaxing vacation may be necessary.
Magnesium-rich foods and Magnesium Supplements
Pharmaceutical grade magnesium can help lower blood pressure and serves many other functions in our body (300 to be exact). Magnesium, potassium and calcium, are scientifically proven supplements that can help keep your blood pressure below 120/80. All three are essential minerals for obtaining and maintaining healthy blood pressure. For blood pressure purposes, magnesium chelate at 500 mg to 1000 mg per day.
The DASH diet (see below) is recommended as a key to managing hypertension. The DASH diet recommends foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Examples of food sources of magnesium
1 ounce of dry roasted almonds 80 milligrams
½ cup frozen spinach (cooked) 78 milligrams
½ cup canned kidney beans 35 milligrams
Reduce the Sodium (salt) – The DASH Diet
“The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a well-researched diet recommended as a first line approach to manage hypertension.” The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium and encourages monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Salt restriction is also a major part of the DASH diet-recommendations. “Studies have shown that people who follow the DASH diet can decrease their systolic pressure by 11 points and their diastolic pressure by about six points.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 70% of American adults should aim for a sodium intake of no more than 1,500 mg per day. Some recommend no more than 1,500-mg-per-day for everyone. The key is reducing the amount of salt in processed and prepared foods
A study started in 1980 followed 58,218 nurses aged 34 to 59 years over a four-year period and recorded their dietary habits. 3,275 of those women developed high blood pressure, with advancing age, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption being the strongest predictors of hypertension development. Women who consumed at least 800 mg of calcium and 300 mg of magnesium were at significantly less risk for developing hypertension when compared to women who consumed less of these minerals.
Stop Smoking – Control Blood Pressure
Most of us associate smoking with lung cancer. Few of us know that even smoking one cigarette can cause transient blood pressure increases of 10 points or more. Smokers tend to die of heart disease more than lung cancer. Blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It also makes the skin age faster so we feel bad and look bad at an earlier age.
Disclaimer: Not all of the information in this blog has been backed up by scholarly journal articles. Nevertheless, it has been taken from reputable sources and is believed to factually accurate.