Whether you call it hypertension or high blood pressure this particular ailment still remains the number one “silent killer!” It is called the “silent killer” because so many people don’t even know they have high blood pressure. Current government statistics estimate that approximately 29% of American adults have high blood pressure. This is up from the 1990s when approximately 25% of adults were dealing with this health issue.
The medical community gets hyper about hypertension and so should you. When you have an elevated blood pressure you are at a higher risk for heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, erectile dysfunction and several other serious medical conditions. Hypertension affects both men and women, especially those in the African American community.
7 Natural Steps
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued two reports in 2002 and 2003 that helped to establish national guidelines for the treatment and prevention of hypertension. Several respected organizations have since added to their initial recommendations. What is interesting to note is that the first line of defense in preventing and controlling hypertension is a healthier and realistic lifestyle. Although medication can be part of the solution, it is not the first step as you so often see in the media. My goal and the goal of these national organizations are to help you realize that you have far greater control over your blood pressure than you realize. With this in mind, here are 7 steps to help empower you to take the hyper out of hypertension.
Step 1 – Monitor Your Blood Pressure! This is the first and easiest of all the steps. If you do not know what your current blood pressure reading is or if you have not had your blood pressure taken in the last 6 months, then get to a local pharmacist, health clinic or qualified medical professional. Have them take your blood pressure. This will be your base line and will help to determine what your next step should be.
Your blood pressure will be given to you in two numbers such as 110/70 mm Hg. Your systolic number is the first and highest number. If this number is 140 or above then you have high blood pressure! Your diastolic number is the second and lowest number. If this number is 90 or above then you have high blood pressure! And, if both numbers are above 140/90 then you have high blood pressure or hypertension. The higher above this threshold the greater your health risk.
Step 2 – Stop Smoking! For many this will be your hardest step but it is also the most important one to take. Most people equate smoking with cancer. While this association is true smoking is also the number one risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that 40% of all cardiovascular deaths are due to smoking.
Smoking will increase blood pressure. The carcinogenic components in tobacco damage the endothelial cells that line the walls of the arteries. This effects your nitric oxide production which will be talked about in Step 7. The carbon monoxide from the burned tobacco interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. This increases your heart rate and can raise your systolic blood pressure. Smoking also constricts the blood vessels in your arms and legs. This increases the resistance to blood flow which causes your diastolic blood pressure to increase.
Step 3 – Lose Weight! Let me be very clear about this. Blood pressure rises with body weight. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 66% of adults age 20 years and over are overweight with 32% clinically obese. Overweight and obesity is at an all-time high. It is one of the main reasons why hypertension is also at an all time high. Losing weight can lower both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It is estimated that for every 20 pounds you lose, you can drop your systolic blood pressure 5-20 points.
Because so many people have tried and failed at dieting, they see this category as hopeless. Diets are by their very nature restrictive and unproductive for long term weight loss. So stop trying to diet. Learn how to apply weight management techniques that can have a profound effect on your health and blood pressure. For most people they are only 250 calories per day away from stopping their weight gain. That’s the difference between a can of regular soda versus a glass of water. Or, a large order of French fries versus a small order of French fries. It you really want help in this area then please read my article “The Secret to Weight Loss!”
Step 4 – Exercise! Properly applied aerobic exercises will strengthen your heart muscle, increase the diameter of the coronary arteries and improve your lung function. This can have a very positive effect on lowering your blood pressure. As the heart muscle is strengthened it usually improves the efficiency of its contraction. This results in a great volume of blood being pushed out of the heart to improve blood flow. This will help to lower your systolic blood pressure when you are in the rest or non-exercise phase of your normal daily activities.
Exercise can also improve capillary function and helps to build additional capillary beds. This decreases resistance to blood flow. This will help to lower your diastolic blood pressure. Most studies show that at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity done 3 to 5 days per week can have a positive effect on your heart health and blood pressure. If you are not currently exercising then please check with a qualified health professional before starting your exercise program.
Step 5 – Eat More Fruits & Vegetables! The National Institutes of Health developed the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to help lower your systolic blood pressure by 8-14 points. This dietary plan is low in fat, rich in fruits and vegetables, and moderate in animal protein. A typical DASH eating plan includes:
This dietary approach is very similar to The Mediterranean Diet which has long been recognized as one of the best lifestyle approaches to reducing cardiovascular disease. Both of these diets emphasize fruits and vegetables. More and more research is showing how beneficial the phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables are to the function of the human body. Phytochemicals:
The incorporation of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet can have multiple health benefits. Plus, it is one of the easiest steps you can take to make a profound difference in your overall wellness.
Step 6 – Rebalance Your Mineral Intake! Usually this centers on reducing or eliminating salt from your diet. However, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, reducing your sodium intake has a limited effect in reducing hypertension. Current research conducted in the United States is showing that moderate sodium intake combined with higher consumption of potassium, calcium and magnesium offer greater benefits in reducing high blood pressure than just restricting sodium intake. The reason why is that these four minerals work together to help regulate blood pressure.
Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, tomatoes, avocados, dates, raisins, cantaloupe, oranges, and watermelon are rich sources of potassium. Low fat or non-fat sources of dairy products will help improve your calcium intake. Foods in their natural state contain less sodium than those that have been processed. Learning how to effectively rebalance your mineral intake will definitely help reduce hypertension.
Step 7 – Understand The Importance of Nitric Oxide! To the general public nitric oxide is not very well known. Outside the body, it is considered an environmental pollutant. To the medical community nitric oxide has been identified as the most important signaling molecule for the cardiovascular system. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to the researchers who discovered how nitric oxide regulated the muscle tone of blood vessels. Very simply your cardiovascular system could not function properly without this critical molecule.
Nitric oxide regulates the muscle tone of blood vessels to have a major impact on controlling blood pressure. Through a series of enzymes the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels create nitric oxide from the essential amino acid L-arginine. Over 10,000 citations have been compiled showing how important L-arginine is for the proper production of nitric oxide. Columbia University often refers to L-arginine as the “MAGIC BULLET” for the cardiovascular system. The article “L-arginine, Nitric Oxide and Sexual Health!” will provide you with an in depth look at how these two molecules impact your cardiovascular system and control your blood pressure.
These seven natural steps will go a long way in helping you take the hyper out of hypertension. They all center on you taking a proactive approach to your health. They are all preventive in nature. Slowing down the aging process and reducing the risk for age-related diseases depends upon your willingness to implement some simple, but profound, lifestyle changes.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Heart & Blood Pressure articles:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.