From heart disease to diabetes, in today's health-conscious environment, it can feel like there are a lot of conditions to watch out for. One that doesn't always get as much attention? High blood pressure, aka hypertension. And lest you think it's not a concern for you or anyone you know, the number of people dealing with it is pretty astounding. вЂњThis is a common issue in the U.S., with nearly one-third of adults (approximately 75 million people) diagnosed with this condition,вЂќ says Brittanie Volk, PhD, RD, a clinician and researcher at VirtaHealth. вЂњUnfortunately, many people with hypertension do not have their condition under control,вЂќ she adds. So what does it take to get it under control, and what kinds of lifestyle changes make a difference?
Ahead, find out what experts want you to know about having high blood pressure, plus the natural way to get it back into the healthy zone.Food Faith Fitness
What Is High Blood Pressure?
You may be familiar with the phrase вЂњhigh blood pressure,вЂќ but unless you have a medical background, you may not know what it means. вЂњHypertension or high blood pressure is just as it sounds,вЂќ says Anna Mason, an RDN and nutrition communicator. вЂњIt is a condition in which the force or pressure of the blood against the walls of blood vessels runs too high.вЂќ There's no one clear cause of high blood pressure, but a variety of factors go into elevating your risk for it. вЂњResearchers have identified age, race, genetics, excess weight, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and even stress as key risk factors in the development of high blood pressure,вЂќ Mason notes.
So how do you know if you have it? Well, it's easy to get checked with a blood pressure cuff, which is the simplest solution since otherwise, it often goes undetected. вЂњWhile people often do not feel any physical symptoms of high blood pressure, it puts stress on both the heart and blood vessels, as the blood runs with a high force through the body,вЂќ Mason explains. вЂњThis increases a person's risk of stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, kidney dysfunction, vision loss, memory issues, metabolic syndrome, and heart failure.вЂќ In other words, if you have high blood pressure, it's important to address it.
Meds Versus Diet
Luckily, high blood pressure can be treated with the help of your doctor. вЂњTypical management of hypertension includes the use of medications,вЂќ Volk explains. вЂњIn fact, there are hundreds of medications available to treat high blood pressure. A healthy diet, however, is an effective way of lowering blood pressure naturally.вЂќ Mason agrees, noting that вЂњas with many chronic conditions, nutrition is one of the risk factors we have control over. We can't change our ethnicity or genetics, but we can craft eating habits that fight for the heart instead of against it.вЂќ Volk says that it's a good idea to get approval from your doctor before you embark on a plan to change your diet.
It's All About the Plant-Based Approach
Plant-based diets are all the rage right now, and for good reason. вЂњNutrition now recognizes that plant-based proteins are better than animal ones,вЂќ notes Joseph Feuerstein, MD, director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University. вЂњMy patients who keep up whole-food plant-based diets tend to have a lower weight and better blood pressure,вЂќ he adds.
What's more is that it seems like opting for a diet high in fresh produce and whole grains is a good idea in general. вЂњThere is extensive evidence that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of chronic disease across the board. High blood pressure is no exception,вЂќ Mason says. вЂњAn eating pattern that covers the rainbow of fruits and vegetables is going to be effortlessly high in vitamins and minerals and low in unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars. As I tell my clients, you'll be hard-pressed to find a downfall to eating more fruits and veggies.вЂќ Another solid approach is the DASH (aka dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet, which recommends high amounts of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with complements of lean protein and low-fat dairy, Mason says. In fact, DASH has been dubbed the best diet for your overall health by nutrition experts.
Foods to Avoid
While it's safe to load up on fruits and veggies, there are certain types of foods you should steer clear of if you're trying to treat your high blood pressure naturally. вЂњSalt is the flag-waving team captain of dietary risk factors for high blood pressure,вЂќ Mason says. вЂњThe recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2300 mg, which is less than a teaspoon of salt per day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends dropping that number to between 1500 and 2000 mg salt each day for the high blood pressure folks out there,вЂќ she notes. That's because salt causes fluid retention and can pull extra fluid into your vessels as it builds up in your blood. With more fluid in your blood and your blood vessels staying the same size, the result is high blood pressure.
Reducing salt intake is tricky since Mason points out that an average American eater is coming in at well over the basic RDA. вЂњHigh-salt foods are going to be any sort of processed food, fast foods, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, and even shellfish,вЂќ she explains. And while you can, of course, eat these foods once in awhile, they shouldn't be part of your daily routine if you're working on your blood pressure. вЂњOf course, that table salt is never your blood pressure's friend,вЂќ she adds. One other thing to watch out for? вЂњThere may be benefits to a glass of wine, but healthy limits should be set at one alcoholic drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men,вЂќ Mason says.
Get Individualized Supplementation Advice
It's easy to recommend supplements that might help with high blood pressure, but MasonВ emphasizes that вЂњsupplementation is incredibly specific to each person.вЂќ Instead of guessing what you might need, she recommends working closely with your doctor or an RD who can look at your blood test results to determine which supplements you require. вЂњSupplementation of vitamin D, omega-3s, magnesium, or potassium can be a very important step in working toward a lower blood pressure. However, supplements are meant to be supplements. Before self-diagnosing deficiencies and adding a supplement, check with your doctor and dietitian to see where you might be falling short and whether it can be remedied with dietary changes,вЂќ she says. вЂњThere's no reason to spend money on supplements for vitamins and minerals you already eat.вЂќ
Sweat It Out
Working out is a great way to ease many health issues, so it's not that surprising that it's recommended in this case, too. вЂњPhysical activity is immensely important in the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, and it's something I would highly recommend to everyone but especially those looking to treat high blood pressure naturally,вЂќ says Michael Wolfe, RD, of The Vitamin Shoppe. вЂњJust 30 minutes of an activity that raises your heart rate above resting can have significant and immediate effects that last well into the next day.вЂќ
Get Your Mind Right
вЂњA regular mindfulness practice can lower blood pressure as much as meds,вЂќ Feuerstein notes. And he's not the only one who uses mindfulness for clients with this issue. вЂњI recommend daily meditation to my patients with hypertension and cardiovascular disease,вЂќ says Charles Passler, nutritionist and founder of Pure Change. вЂњIt doesn't cost you anything but your time. Just 10 minutes every morning can not only help reduce your blood pressure, but it can improve your overall health and emotional well-being. If you're wondering how to get started, just go to YouTube, and search the word 'meditation.' The options are almost limitless.вЂќ
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