Trying to learn how to lower your blood pressure naturally with better food and nutrition? Good idea!
High blood pressure is a common problem — so common, in fact, that one in three Americans suffer from it. People may have a genetic predisposition for high blood pressure, and stress and an unhealthy lifestyle often contribute to it. The main reason for high blood pressure, though, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of Take Control of Your Health, is too much sugar.
Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension) is important, because left unchecked, it can cause heart disease or stroke. Hypertension often lacks noticeable symptoms, so it is important to have regular physicals. Hypertension is generally diagnosed as a blood pressure reading above 140/80.
Medications designed to treat hypertension do not relieve the underlying causes, and are not always effective at lowering blood pressure. Over 50 percent of patients find that medication alone does not control their hypertension.
The good news is that lifestyle changes can help over 85 percent of those suffering from hypertension. Develop an exercise plan with the help of your doctor that incorporates aerobic exercise and strength training. Start slowly and aim to exercise consistently at least five days per week. Reduce stress through yoga, meditation or prayer.
Dr. Mercola advises cutting out foods that are rapidly converted to sugar, such as pasta, bread, potatoes, rice and cereal. In addition, he recommends cutting out foods that are high in fructose, including fruit like mangoes, raisins and grapes.
Physician and author Matilda Parente, MD, recommends the following foods as part of an overall healthy lifestyle to reduce hypertension or prevent it.
Kale, collards and other leafy greens: These plants are easy to grow in your own yard and are high in fiber and vitamin A, and low in sugars. Recent research suggests that inorganic nitrates, found in these plants, may relax the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. Plant leafy greens in early spring, as soon as the soil is soft.
Green peas: Green peas also contain plenty of fiber and vitamins. Plant them early in the spring since peas tend to wither and dwindle when temperatures rise.
Tomatoes: The chemical lycopene, responsible for tomato’s bright color, is also a powerful antioxidant. Buy disease-free tomato plants and wait until after the last frost to plant them.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes contain fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants, as well. Sweet potatoes need warm temperatures and a long growing season to mature.
Winter squash: Also high in fiber, beta carotene and vitamin A, winter squash need plenty of room, fertile soil and a long growing season.
Berries: Dr. Parente says a recent study found that eating a cup of blueberries or strawberries weekly may prevent high blood pressure. Strawberries grow well in full sun and moist, rich soil. Blueberries, on the other hand, have very specific growing needs. Unless your soil is very acidic (4.5 to 5.5) you’re probably better off buying fresh or frozen berries.
Apricots: Apricots are a good source of fiber and potassium, which has been shown to reduce or prevent high blood pressure. Apricots thrive in climates with warm summers and mild winters. Avoid dried apricots, since they contain more sugar.
Bananas: Also high in potassium, bananas help remove excess sodium from the body, says Dr. Parente.
Cantaloupe: High in potassium and beta carotene, cantaloupe is refreshing alone, in fruit salads or blended in smoothies. Grow it in full sun in moist, rich soil.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet may do more than just reduce your blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, aiding in weight loss, and you’ll probably have more energy, as well.
Creative Commons Flickr photo of berries courtesy of cookbookman.