You know those times you're watering your lawn and all of a sudden the water stops? You trace your way back and find a kink in the hose. You unravel it and (whoosh) the water comes pouring out. Just like the pressure brimming from your water supply, the pressure from the blood in your circulatory system is a blatant measure of potential damage to your inner sprinkler system (cardiovascular system).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one third of American adults have high blood pressure (or hypertension), a serious condition which is associated with some 1,000 deaths per day. Regardless of the fact that high blood pressure is, in most cases, manageable via medication and lifestyle changes, about half of the US population who have high blood pressure do not have it under control.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, you may be facing a high risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and other life-threatening health problems. But the good news is that, whether you are on medication or not, simply changing your lifestyle and adding a natural supplement to your daily routine can help you keep your hypertension under control.
What is high blood pressure?
Arteries are naturally flexible and smooth, which allows blood to easily move throughout the body. High blood pressure creates extra force against the blood vessels and artery walls, which damages the lining of the arteries. As they become narrower and harder, this restricts blood flow, and when blood flow is lowered, the heart has to work harder to pump it through the body, which only makes the problem worse.
Blood pressure is measured as two numbers. Systolic blood pressure is the top number. This indicates how much pressure your blood is applying against your artery walls when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number. This represents how much pressure your blood is applying when your heart is resting - between beats.
Which one should you worry about?
Both. The American Heart Association states that more attention is given to systolic blood pressure (the top number) because this is related to stiffening of arteries, build up of plaque, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. But either elevated systolic pressure or diastolic pressure are blood pressure levels used by your health care practitioner to diagnose high blood pressure.
An easy way to remember the names are "D" for down - diastolic being the bottom number
The American Heart Association categorized blood pressure readings by five ranges:
- Normal: less than 120/80 mm Hg is considered to be normal and healthy.
- Elevated: when readings consistently range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic, you're at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Hypertension stage 1: when blood pressure consistently ranges from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic. Doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider medication.
- Hypertension stage 2: when blood pressure consistently ranges at 140/90 or higher. Doctors are likely to prescribe both medication and lifestyle change.
(Note: The range that is considered healthy can vary slightly depending on whether you have certain conditions such as diabetes.)
What causes high blood pressure?
There are many factors that can cause high blood pressure and it's often a complex mix of factors that can put you in a higher risk category.
At the more manageable end of the spectrum, most of the things that cause hypertension are related to lifestyle choices. Smoking, alcohol, obesity, high cholesterol, high sodium diet are just a few examples of things that people can choose to change to reduce the risks associated with high blood pressure.
Sleep apnea, diabetes, and stress, each of which may be controlled (though this can be a bit more difficult), can also put a strain on the cardiovascular system and intensify blood pressure and related problems. Factors that put you in a high-risk category but that are difficult (or impossible) to control include family history, gender, and chronic kidney disease.
Why is high blood pressure so serious?
High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because most of the time, the symptoms aren’t particularly noticeable, yet outcomes may be vast and very serious. In addition, the longer that you suffer from high blood pressure and don’t take steps to manage it, the more chance it will cause irreversible damage to your body.
Hypertension is a main cause of chronic and acute health problems like:
kidney scarring and failure
Thus, it’s crucial that you take control of high blood pressure as soon as possible and make it a lifelong goal to make lifestyle choices that support your heart health.
How can I prevent or manage high blood pressure?
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is simply making healthy life choices. Dietary approaches include minimizing processed foods, eating lower sodium, minimizing or avoiding alcohol, adding lots of fruits and vegetables, select whole grains, and avoiding unhealthy fats. Ensure that your diet is high in good fats (like omegas - DHA and EPA) and fiber. It can also be very helpful to up your magnesium and potassium intake (bananas, oranges, melons, legumes). More details on magnesium below.
Smoking is one of the worst risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, and it’s important that you take steps to quit as soon as possible to avoid hypertension, even if you don’t yet suffer from it yet. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of healing materials, which narrows artery walls and increases blood pressure. Smoking also significantly lowers your vitamin C levels, a powerful antioxidant, which further puts you at risk.
If you're carrying extra weight, weight loss, will also significantly decrease your risk. This is because your heart won't have to pump as hard to get the blood flowing to your extremities. Regardless of your weight, it's extremely important to stay physically active. This helps improve circulation and lowers blood pressure overtime. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of movement every day. Getting adequate sleep, and managing stress levels can go a long way to supporting better cardiovascular health.
And if you are taking blood pressure medications, be sure to take it as directed and consult your doctor regularly if you notice any health changes.
Beyond this, there are a number of dietary supplements that are completely safe, inexpensive and effective when it comes to managing hypertension. Please always get medical advice before starting any new diet or supplement routine. Here are some of our top choices.
Magnesium is found in foods such as whole wheat, leafy greens, quinoa, nuts, and dark chocolate, but it seems that most people have difficulty getting the recommended amounts. Magnesium deficiency is the second most common deficiency in developed countries, and returning your intake to normal levels has been proven to regulate blood pressure. Magnesium helps balance sodium by helping potassium cross the cell membrane.
Be sure to take magnesium supplements with food for optimal absorption and to avoid side effect such as digestive discomfort.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil supplements, offer a wide variety of heart-healthy benefits, including the ability to reduce blood pressure by reducing LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol. It is possible to consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids simply by adding more fatty fish to your diet, but it’s much easier to take it in supplement form. Just make sure to get a good quality supplement. The best forms of Omega-3 oil are krill and calamari oils.
Pyroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, is a pseudo-vitamin that can boost metabolic efficiency and function. PQQ helps lower blood pressure by reducing the level of triglycerides in the blood. About 20 mg / day is all you need for optimal brain and body health.
4. Vitamin D
A lack of vitamin D is common in developed countries due to inadequate diets and lack of sunlight and can cause a range of health problems. But this simple and inexpensive supplement may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking around 4000IU of a high-quality D3 supplement daily can also support bone health, lower blood pressure, boost your mood and reduce fatigue – and these are just a few of its many health benefits.
5. Folate / Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folate and folic acid (both forms of vitamin B9) have been shown to reduce the incidence of stroke in adults with hypertension. Folate helps regulate the amount of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with a possible risk of blood clots. Folate is naturally found in broccoli, legumes, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.
6. Coenzyme Q10
Supplementary levels of CoQ10 can improve your circulation and blood pressure, as well as improving aerobic exercise capacity and reducing fatigue. This supplement is also particularly useful for those with pre-existing heart conditions .
Citrulline is an amino acid and pre-Arginine supplement but it’s more easily absorbed by the body than arginine. Arginine (and Citrulline by extension) improves the nitric oxide balance of the blood, which improves circulation. Aim to take 1mg of citrulline (or 1.8mg of citrulline mallate) with food for the best results.
8. Garlic supplements
Garlic contains vitamins C and B6 and minerals manganese and selenium that help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. It contains a powerful antioxidant called allicin, which can reduce LDL (unhealthy cholesterol) levels. It's proven to be helpful in conjunction with lipid-lowering drugs. Cool fact: chopping fresh garlic helps release allicin.
Are you ready to take control of your life, naturally?
When left untreated, high blood pressure is challenging and dangerous disease to deal with. It causes an extremely high number of unnecessary deaths each day in the United States. But in most cases, it’s not difficult to obtain a normal blood pressure level when you take the right steps.
Why put yourself at risk of an early death when you can take simple steps now to lower your risk of life-threatening illnesses? By adding a simple, high quality supplement to your healthy diet and exercise routine, you’re bound to see your health improve in a short period of time, leading to a longer, happier life.
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Check out the article How To Lower Blood Sugar Naturally: 5 Top Supplements for more natural solutions to common health concerns