If you’re wondering about how to improve or lower your blood pressure, you probably discovered that you have high blood pressure during a routine doctor’s visit. This is a likely assumption because low blood pressure is not a health risk unless it is extremely low or causes symptoms such as dizziness or fainting. Because low blood pressure is not usually dangerous, this article will focus on high blood pressure, also called hypertension.
When you found out you have high blood pressure, your doctor probably gave you advice on lowering your blood pressure. Though you may have been given some tips or even a brochure, it might not have been clear enough. You need more information. You need to know how to lower your blood pressure easily and relatively quickly.
You’re in the right place. We have the answers you’re looking for, and we’re so glad you’re even asking this question. So many people don’t ask about their blood pressure. The question never even crosses their minds.
Why many people don’t read anything about improving their blood pressure
The reason why many — actually most — people don’t read anything about improving their blood pressure is that they think they don’t need this information. They don’t think there is anything wrong with their blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. For this reason, it is called the “silent killer” because so many people don’t know they have it. The first time many people know they have high blood pressure is when they’ve had a heart attack or stroke, or some other illness. Others never know they have high blood pressure because the physical problem it creates kills them.
And high blood pressure is not a minor nor a rare problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 75 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. That is one in every 3 adults in America.
What is high blood pressure?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels is continuously elevated. It is a common condition affecting approximately 75 million adults in the United States. That is, one in every three adults has high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force blood applies to artery walls during the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle as it circulates throughout your body. Your blood pressure does not stay the same all the time; it varies throughout the day. But if your blood pressure remains elevated for a prolonged period of time, it can cause many serious health problems.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
High blood pressure is diagnosed with a simple blood pressure monitor. Almost every medical visit — regardless of the type of doctor — will include a blood pressure test. This is because of the importance of catching high blood pressure early so that the patient has an opportunity to lower their blood pressure before it damages their health.
A blood pressure reading includes two numbers: systolic and diastolic.
- Systolic: The top number of the reading is the peak pressure when the heart is pumping blood out.
- Diastolic: The bottom number of the reading is the pressure when your heart rests between beats when it is filling with blood.
A diagnosis of high blood pressure is usually based on several blood pressure readings. That’s because blood pressure levels can vary so much that one high blood pressure reading is not enough to accurately diagnose the condition. Many people also are nervous when they visit the doctor, which tends to raise their blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, here are the blood pressure stages.
Blood Pressure Stages
- Normal Blood Pressure: Less than 120 on the top and less than 80 on bottom
- Elevated Blood Pressure: 120-129 on the top and less than 80 on the bottom
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 1) 130-139 on the top or 80 to 89 on the bottom
- High Blood Pressure (Stage 2) 140 or higher on the top or 90 or higher on the bottom
- Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 on the top and/or higher than 120 on the bottom (Go to ER!!!).
Complications of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can contribute to many dangerous health conditions. That’s because blood pressure affects blood circulation, which impacts many organs of the body. This damage, however, does not happen suddenly. It takes place over time. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to the following conditions:
- Heart failure: With high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder at pumping blood throughout the body. After a while, this can cause an enlarged heart that cannot supply an adequate supply of blood to the body.
- Heart attack: Continual pressure on the arteries from high blood pressure eventually damages these arteries. This can eventually lead to arterial blockages, preventing blood flow to the heart. The result is a heart attack.
- Stroke: High blood pressure can have a similar effect on the blood vessels in the brain, causing a blockage preventing blood travel throughout the brain. It can also cause blood vessels to burst. In either case, a stroke is an inevitable result.
- Blindness: High blood pressure also puts pressure on the blood vessels of the eyes. Over time, this can cause vision and eye damage, which can eventually lead to blindness.
- Kidney failure: Blood pressure affects all arteries in the body, including those surrounding the kidneys. If it damages the arteries around the kidneys, it can cause the kidneys to not function properly. They will not be able to filter blood effectively, resulting in kidney disease or failure.
- Sexual dysfunction: High blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction in men or lowered sexual desire in women. This is a result of the effect on blood vessels in the genital region.
Understand your risk factors
As you can see, the health effects of high blood pressure are far-reaching and serious. You don’t have to be a victim, though, and can learn methods for improving your blood pressure. However, you need to first know your risk factors.
Here are the most common risk factors for high blood pressure.
- Age: Like many health conditions, the risk of having high blood pressure increases with age. Researchers believe this is because blood vessels lose a bit of their elasticity as people age, which necessarily increases blood pressure. But age is not an absolute predictor. Children can have high blood pressure.
- Gender: Statistics show men are the more likely victims of high blood pressure — that is, up until the age of 64. Then it switches over to the other sex. Women are more at risk of high blood pressure at age 65 and older, possibly because of the hormonal changes of menopause.
- Family history: Having a close family member — such as a sibling or parent — who has high blood pressure increases your chance of developing it, too.
Risk factors you can modify
Age, gender, and family history are risk factors you cannot change. The following risk factors of high blood pressure, however, are ones you can modify to decrease your risk of this condition. Once you know these modifiable risk factors, you will have a better idea of how to improve your blood pressure. Here are the most common modifiable risk factors for high blood pressure.
Poor-Quality Diet: Eating a regular diet of sugars, trans fats, processed carbs, and sodium increases your risk of high blood pressure. Almost all highly processed foods contain all of these ingredients, especially sugars, and sodium. A diet too high in sodium is one of the biggest dietary contributors to high blood pressure. The American Heart Association(ADA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, gradually reducing it to 1,500 milligrams.
According to the ADA, the average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams per day! If you think that’s not possible, that you never add salt to your food or eat “salty” foods, keep in mind that most of the sodium Americans consume doesn’t come from the salt shaker. It comes from processed foods. If you want to improve your blood pressure, one of the most effective ways is by reducing your intake of heavily processed foods.
Overweight and Obesity: Having extra weight strains your blood vessels, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. Losing weight has been shown to improve blood pressure.
Lack of Physical Activity: Living a sedentary activity in which you do not get enough daily physical activity has been linked to high blood pressure. Being physically active strengthens your heart and circulatory system, allowing blood to be more easily pumped through your blood vessels.
Improving your blood pressure with the SANE Diet
Adjusting your diet is one of the easiest ways to improve your blood pressure. Though the changes you make may be minor, they will make big, positive changes in your blood pressure readings.
Here are the 4 SANE food groups that you will want to eat every day to improve your blood pressure:
Eating at least 10 servings per day of non-starchy vegetables is key to improving your blood pressure readings. Non-starchy vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support healthy blood pressure. In fact, non-starchy veggies are good sources of potassium, a mineral known to lower blood pressure. Be sure to include plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables, as they contain high levels of potassium.
Here are some examples of non-starchy veggies to try:
- Collard Greens
Eating 3-5 servings per day of nutrient-dense protein balances your blood sugar levels, fills you up fast and keep you full for a long time, and helps you build and maintain muscle. It also has a beneficial effect on blood pressure. A study published in Circulation indicated that increased protein intake may decrease systolic blood pressure. Try to choose meats that have been humanely raised. Also, be sure to eat plenty of wild-caught salmon, halibut, or other oily fish, as they contain high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Try out some of these yummy nutrient-dense proteins:
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg Whites
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Lean Meats
- Nonfat Greek Yogurt
Eating 3-6 servings of whole-food fats per day is another great way to improve your blood pressure. Whole-food fats also contain fiber and protein, making them a great all-around addition to your diet. Your body needs healthy dietary fat to function properly, so give it what it needs.
Here are some satisfying whole-food fats:
- Chia Seeds
- Coconut Milk
- Flax Seeds
- Macadamia Nuts
Feel free to enjoy 0-3 servings of low-fructose fruits per day on the SANE diet. As over-consumption of sugar can lead to high blood pressure, limiting your sugar consumption by eating an occasional serving of low-fructose fruits is the best way to go!
When you want something naturally sweet, reach for one of these low-fructose fruits:
- Acai Berries
The SANE Diet and setpoint weight
Eating these foods also lowers your setpoint weight. The setpoint weight is the level of fat your body thinks you should have based on a communication feedback loop between your brain, your digestive system, and your hormones.
Ideally, this system “reads” your level of body fat correctly so that you can never be too fat or too thin. However, if this system becomes damaged, it creates a hormonal clog in which the hormones cannot send or receive proper signals. Your setpoint weight becomes elevated, and your body defends this weight. No matter how hard you try to diet or exercise those pounds away, you’ll always end up back at your setpoint weight.
The only way you can permanently lose weight is by lowering your setpoint weight. Then, you’ll easily and naturally lose weight down to your new setpoint weight, and you’ll stay around that weight. No dieting or counting calories, or frustration is needed.
When you eat a SANE diet, you’ll not only improve your blood pressure with the foods you eat, but the resulting weight loss will further reduce your risk of high blood pressure. If you also make a point to become more physically active — such as taking a walk around the block each day or mowing the lawn manually — you won’t have to worry about improving your blood pressure. How great is that?
Lower your blood pressure with SANESolution and the SANE Diet
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