High Blood Pressure
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the resistance produced each time the heart beats and sends blood coursing through the arteries. The peak reading of the pressure exerted by this contraction is the systolic pressure. Between beats the heart relaxes, and blood pressure drops. The lowest reading is referred to as the diastolic pressure.
A normal blood pressure reading for an adult is: 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic). Readings above this level are a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure readings can be divided into the following levels:
• Prehypertension (120-139/80-89)
• Borderline (120-160/90-94)
• Mild (140-160/95-104)
• Moderate 140-180/105-114)
• Severe (160+/115+)
Borderline to moderate high blood pressure is generally without symptoms. Severe hypertension may be associated with increased sleepiness, confusion, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
What causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is closely related to lifestyle and dietary factors. Important lifestyle factors that may cause high blood pressure include: coffee consumption, alcohol intake, lack of exercise, stress, and smoking. Important dietary factors include: obesity; high sodium-to-potassium ratio; low-fiber, high-sugar diet; high saturated-fat and low essential-fatty-acid intake; and a diet low in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C.
What dietary factors are important in High Blood Pressure?
Achieving ideal body weight is the most important recommendation for those with high blood pressure. Even modest amounts of weight loss often produce significant reduction in blood pressure.
A diet high in sodium and low in potassium is associated with high blood pressure. The easiest way to lower sodium intake is to avoid prepared foods and table salt. The best ways to boost potassium levels are to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Special foods for people with high blood pressure include celery; garlic and onions; nuts and seeds; cold-water fish, e.g. salmon and mackerel, or fish oil products concentrated for the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA; green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables for their contents of calcium and magnesium; ground flaxseeds, whole grains, and legumes for their fiber; and foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli and citrus fruits.
How does one get to know if the recommendations are working?
You will know if the program is working by monitoring your blood pressure. Do not expect an immediate reduction as diet, lifestyle, and supplement strategies often take 4-6 weeks to start showing an effect. As a reminder, high blood pressure must not be taken lightly. By keeping your blood pressure in the normal range, you will not only lengthen your life, but you will improve the quality of your life as well. This is especially true if natural measures, rather than drugs, are used to attain proper blood pressure; the drugs could carry significant side effects such as fatigue, headaches, and impotence.
If you have severe hypertension or with the natural approach your blood pressure has not dropped below 140/105, you will need to work with a physician to select the most appropriate medication. The diet, lifestyle, and supplements recommended above are perfectly safe for use with prescription drugs for high blood pressure.