Do you know what the “#1 risk factor for death and disability in the world” is?
It’s high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects a billion people!
It’s one of those silent conditions that can become serious.
So if you have high blood pressure, it’s best that you are monitored by your healthcare professional. And if you’re on medication for high blood pressure, never change that without speaking with a medical professional.
Today, we’ll talk about what high blood pressure is and which foods and lifestyle factors can help with it.
What is high blood pressure?
It’s something your doctor commonly checks. You can even do it yourself in many pharmacies, or purchase at-home blood pressure monitors. There is an inflatable tube placed around your arm that gets blown up and tight. It measures how hard your blood is pushing against the walls of your blood vessels.
If your vessels are stiff, the pressure increases. It’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly because for many people, there are no symptoms as it slowly creeps higher and higher.
This measurement is important because having elevated high blood pressure for too long can cause serious damage. In extreme cases, it can result in blindness, kidney damage, stroke or even a heart attack.
Here are a few of the foods and drinks that can help with blood pressure.
Eat more plants – This is key
If there is one thing you can eat to help with blood pressure, its plants.
Plants increase your intake of many critical nutrients, especially vitamins C, E and folate and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and sulfur. Not to mention the all-around health booster known as fiber. All of these nutrients are needed for optimal heart and blood health.
Some plants to eat more of include leafy greens (kale, in particular), legumes, nuts/seeds, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes.
Two plants I want to highlight in particular are flax (actually the seeds from the plant) and beets. Consuming a few tablespoons of ground flaxseeds a day is one of the best foods to help with blood pressure (I add 3 tablespoons to my daily smoothie). Beets contain a blood-pressure lowering substance called nitrate. And beet juice has been shown to reduce blood pressure within hours of drinking it.
Eat fewer processed foods
We’ve all heard the advice to reduce sodium intake for high blood pressure. Not surprisingly, most of the sodium in our diet is from the salt added to processed foods. It’s not from the dash or two on your homemade cooked-from-scratch dinner. Reducing processed food intake not only reduces sodium and sugar intake but also increases intake of more nutrient-dense less processed foods.
Ditch the fast-food, takeout, restaurant meals and convenience snacks. Replace them with some of the plants I mentioned above.
Ditch the caffeine … particularly, if you’re sensitive to it
Coffee has been shown to temporarily increase blood pressure. Its effects can last for up to three hours after drinking it. It may not be so bad if you’re not sensitive to it, but caffeine affects some people more than others. Some caffeine sensitivity symptoms include shakiness, worry, irregular heartbeat or difficulty sleeping.
If you find caffeine affects you, then try switching to decaf or eliminating it altogether.
TIP: Don’t drink a cup of regular coffee or have other sources of caffeine right before your next doctor’s appointment or blood pressure test.
Drink hibiscus tea
This is not hype. There is science behind the blood-pressure lowering effects of hibiscus tea.
Several clinical studies have shown that it works. In one study, people drank two cups of strong hibiscus tea every morning. Those two cups were made using a total of five tea bags. This lowered the subjects’ blood pressure as much as a blood pressure medication.
In addition to food, know that a number of lifestyle factors can be helpful, too.
- First of all, if you smoke, really focus on quitting.
- If you drink alcohol, don’t overdo it.
- If you’re seriously stressed, try meditating, yoga, deep breathing, walking in nature or any other healthy way that busts your stress.
- If you don’t exercise, start small. Also, try not to overdo exercise if you already have high blood pressure.
To sum up
High blood pressure can be a silent and all-too-common issue. Elevated blood pressure puts you at risk for serious diseases.
If you have elevated blood pressure, you should be regularly monitored by your healthcare professional, and never change your medications without his/her input.
Some of the key food and lifestyle upgrades that can help with blood pressure are:
- Eating more plants, particularly ground flaxseeds and beets
- Eating fewer processed foods
- Lowering sodium intake and increasing potassium
- Ditching caffeine, if you’re sensitive to it
- Drinking hibiscus tea
- Quitting smoking
- Not overdoing alcohol
- Reducing stress
- Exercising wisely
Do you or does someone you know have high blood pressure? Which of the suggestions in this post might be something you or someone you know could experiment with first? Please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
Barb: This blog was particularly educational and helpful to me, since I do tend to have high blood pressure (a family trait), which I have been on medication for these past many years. I really like some of your suggestions and will take them to heart. I already eat a lot of plant foods, but, unfortunately, I HATE BEETS! So, that tip I’ll have to ignore!! I eat very few processed foods, only have 1 cup of coffee a day and don’t smoke. I definitely need to start exercising more (took a brisk walk during lunch at work today!) and (maybe!) cutting back to 1 glass of wine a night…we’ll see about that one! Thank you for all your input and information (and I loved reading about your and Ed’s relationship….very sweet!!) …keep it coming, girlfriend! XO Al
Have you tried the hibiscus tea? Glad you got out for a walk (which I hope you get to do on a regular basis), and you might want to try some yoga. I recommend Yoga With Adrienne, which you can find and follow along with on YouTube. It’s very gentle and soothing. I love it. Hope you’ll give it a go. And do you meditate? Thanks for your comments! xoxo, Barb