Preventing High Blood Pressure the Natural Way
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition in which the force of blood flowing through your arteries is routinely too high. Approximately 75 million — 1 in 3 — American adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Because the heart has to work harder to pump blood, hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other conditions.
Health risks of high blood pressure
You probably already know that high blood pressure can cause heart attack and stroke by damaging blood vessels in the heart or brain. But what you may not know is that these blood vessels carry blood throughout the body. So, hypertension can damage these blood vessels anywhere along your circulatory system, leading to a number of serious health conditions.
Here are just a few of the health problems high blood pressure can cause if left untreated.
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Vision damage/loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Peripheral artery disease
Unfortunately, high blood pressure usually does not have any symptoms, which is why it is often referred to as “the silent killer.” You can have high blood pressure for many years and not know it. All the while, it is damaging your arteries and will eventually lead to major health issues — unless you learn techniques for it.
Hypertension risk factors
There are many risk factors for high blood pressure. Below are just a few of them.
- Age: Like most health conditions, the risk of high blood pressure increases with age. High blood pressure is more prevalent in men until they are in their mid-60s. After the age of 65, women are then more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Family history: If you have family members with high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop this condition, too.
- Being overweight or obese: Extra weight puts pressure on your artery walls, raising your blood pressure.
- Physical inactivity: According to the Centers for Disease Control, being physically inactive can indirectly lead to high blood pressure because it increases the risk of weight gain.
- Excessive sodium intake: Studies show consuming too much sodium promotes fluid retention, raising blood pressure.
- Stress: Though high stress only temporarily raises blood pressure, it can lead to stress-eating and other behaviors that cause weight gain, thereby leading to high blood pressure.
- Tobacco use: Chewing or smoking tobacco not only immediately raises your blood pressure, but it also damages the lining of your artery walls. This eventually leads to chronic high blood pressure.
Preventing high blood pressure naturally
Four of the best ways to prevent high blood pressure naturally include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, and reducing stress. Let’s take each of them one at a time.
Hypertension prevention with the SANE Diet
The SANE Diet focuses on whole foods that nourish your body. You’ll eat foods that taste delicious, are satisfying, and will help in preventing high blood pressure.
The 4 SANE Food groups are non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits.
10+ servings per day. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each main meal, or blend several servings into a yummy green smoothie.
Non-starchy veggies are high-antioxidant foods loaded with fiber and nutrients, meaning they are nourishing and filling. Studies show those who eat more fresh produce have lower blood pressure readings than those who do not eat many veggies. Remember to include plenty of leafy green vegetables in your diet, such as spinach and kale, as they contain high amounts of potassium needed to balance out the sodium.
Some wonderful non-starchy vegetables include:
- Romaine Lettuce
3-5 servings per day, 30-55 grams per meal. Fill a third of your plate with nutrient-dense proteins at each main meal.
Nutrient-dense proteins fill you up fast and keep you full for a long, long time. This prevents overeating, helping you maintain a healthy weight, and they provide the energy you need.
Delicious nutrient-dense protein selections include:
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg Whites
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Plain, Nonfat Greek yogurt
3-6 servings per day. Fill a third of your plate with whole-food fats at each main meal.
Whole food fats are satisfying. Your body needs dietary fat to function properly, so eating whole-food fats gives your body the nutrients it needs for all of these functions.
Great whole-food fats include:
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
0-3 servings per day.
You are also free to enjoy up to 3 servings of tasty low-fructose fruits per day. These allow you to enjoy something sweet without having too much sugar, a substance that can damage your arteries and cause high blood pressure.
Yummy low-fructose fruits include:
- Goji Berries
General dietary principles for preventing high BP
In addition to eating SANE foods, here are some general dietary principles that will help you prevent high blood pressure.
Reduce processed food consumption: These foods not only contain sugars and chemicals that damage your health and dysregulate your hormones, but they are also typically loaded with sodium. Eating too much sodium leads to water retention, which puts pressure on the arteries, causing high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends an intake of no more than 1500 to 2300 mg of sodium per day. If you eat a diet consisting of a high amount of highly processed foods, however, you will significantly exceed that limit every day!
Reduce consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates: Studies show refined sugar consumption may be an even bigger risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease than salt consumption. If you reduce processed food consumption, you will automatically eat less refined sugars and carbohydrates, too. That’s because more than 90% of the added sugars in our diets, according to one study, come from highly processed foods.
Eat whole foods: Purchase foods as close to their natural states as possible. You’ll generally find whole foods at the perimeter of the grocery stores, in the produce and meat sections.
Preventing high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight
The SANE Diet will help you maintain a healthy weight, which is a huge step toward preventing high blood pressure. If you’ve been struggling with your weight, you’ll want to read this section, as the knowledge you learn here will help you permanently lose weight and feel great.
Here is how SANE foods work to help you permanently lose weight:
The body is an amazingly complex machine, with your brain, digestive system, and hormones all working together to stabilize your weight. Specifically, they continually communicate with each other to synchronize the activities that automatically maintain body fat at a specific level. This is your setpoint weight, which is the number on the scale your weight tends to hover around, give or take a few pounds.
Think of it like the thermostat in your house. Because of this thermostat, your heating or air conditioning system keeps your home at whatever temperature the thermometer “thinks” it should be at. Similarly, your setpoint weight stimulates or suppresses your appetite and raises or lowers your metabolism based on how much fat it “thinks” you should store. This system ensures that you’ll never become too fat or too thin.
When the system breaks, the setpoint weight rises
But if the system is broken, the hormones cannot send or receive correct signals. The body doesn’t know how much fat you should have, so it gives you more fat by default. You now have a higher setpoint weight, and your brain, digestive system, and hormones work to defend this weight just as intensely as they worked to defend your lower setpoint weight.
If you go on a starvation diet, your body’s metabolic alarm goes off that you’re not consuming as much as you normally do. Your hormones make you hungry so you’ll eat more food. Your metabolism slows so that you’ll burn fewer calories. This is why it is so difficult to lose weight. Your body is actually working against your efforts. As soon as you go off the diet and start eating normally again, you’ll also gain the weight back because of the slower metabolism starvation dieting caused.
You will never lose weight in the long term by fighting your setpoint weight. The only thing that will work is lowering your setpoint weight. Once you do that, you will burn fat like a naturally thin person.
How to lower your setpoint weight
One of the best ways to lower your setpoint weight is to eat a SANE Diet. Non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, and whole-food fats work together to fill you up fast and keep you full for a long time. They are also nutritious and are difficult or impossible for your body to store as fat. The goal is to be so full of SANE foods, you’ll not have room for inSANE ones.
And here’s the amazing part…you will eat more food but fewer calories than you did before you went SANE. You will have a calorie deficit. But because you’re satisfied (not hungry) and your cells are nourished, your body does not see the calorie deficit as an emergency. It is happy to burn fat and lower your setpoint weight.
It really is as easy as that!
Preventing high blood pressure with regular physical activity
Studies show that getting regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure. Before beginning any physical activity program, always check with your healthcare provider to make sure the activity level is the appropriate one for you.
Keep in mind that physical activity does not necessarily mean formal, planned exercise. Just getting up and moving more will help in preventing high blood pressure. Here are some physical activities that will help get you moving, preventing high blood pressure in the process!
Everyday physical activities
- Grocery shopping
- Mowing the Lawn (with a push mower)
- Playing with the Dog
Restorative leisure activities
Any activity that increases your heart rate for an extended period also increases cortisol levels, which can cause an elevated setpoint weight. It is best to choose eccentric exercises, more about those in a minute, combined with restorative leisure activities, such as the ones below:
- Walking (Leisurely Pace)
Eccentric exercise concentrates on the lowering part of the movement. For instance, if you’re performing a bicep curl with a dumbbell, the concentric part of the movement is when you curl the dumbbell toward your chest, and the eccentric part is when you lower it away from your body.
If performed slowly, the eccentric part of the movement activates all your muscle fibers, which has been proven to be more metabolically effective than traditional exercise. You can make any exercise eccentric by performing the lower part of the movement slowly to a count of 10. Repeat 6 times for each exercise.
Because eccentric exercises activate all your muscle fibers, you cannot do them very long or frequently. In fact, you should only do them for 10-20 minutes once per week. (10 minutes for eccentric exercises, 10 minutes of eccentric cardio or interval training.) Studies show eccentric exercise increases insulin sensitivity and clears hormonal clogs.
Preventing high BP by reducing stress
Preventing high blood pressure also depends on how well you can reduce stress. Although there is no proof that stress increases blood pressure long term, it does cause sporadic spikes in blood pressure levels that could eventually damage the arteries. Chronic stress can also lead to inSANE eating behaviors that lead to high blood pressure.
To stop these risks, make a point to de-stress as often as possible. This can be as simple as performing a few deep-breathing exercises every time you feel stressed to sitting down for a 20-30 minute meditation every day. Anything that you enjoy doing is a stress reliever, so making time for yourself is really one of the best things you can do to prevent high blood pressure.
Next step: Learn the natural ways of preventing high blood pressure with SANE
Ready to finally break free from the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster by balancing your hormones and lowering your body’s setpoint weight?
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