High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. A person’s blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps, along with the resistance of blood flow in your arteries.
A blood pressure reading is based on two measures, the systolic and the diastolic. The systolic number is the measure of force it takes your heart to contract and pump out blood. The diastolic number is the measure of how long your heart relaxes between beats.
A normal blood-pressure is 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic); whereas a high blood pressure reading has a systolic reading of 140 and higher. Chronic low blood pressure can be signs of other health problems and often give systolic readings of 100 and lower.
Low blood pressure can occur with pregnancy, decreased blood, specific medications, prolonged bed rest, heart complications, endocrine problems, severe infections, allergic reactions and nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, fainting, fast breathing, blurred vision, nausea, pale skin, fatigue and depression.
Chronic high blood pressure can narrow and block arteries, as well strain and weaken the body’s organs. According to Statistics Canada, in 2014, 18% of Canadians 12 years old and older were reported to have high blood pressure. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easily detected, much is known about it, and there are ways to prevent and maintain it.
There are two types of high blood pressure, primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension develops gradually over many years. Whereas, secondary hypertension can appear suddenly, often caused by an underlying condition.
Underlying conditions to hypertension involve other health conditions such as sleep apnea, kidney problems, adrenal gland tumours, thyroid problems and chronic stress. Unhealthy lifestyles with lack of exercise, poor eating habits, too much salt, alcohol abuse, smoking and illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, also contribute greatly to secondary hypertension. Pharmaceuticals such as certain birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, pain relievers and other prescription drugs in recent years have also shown to be another contributing factor.
Making healthy lifestyle changes like moderate daily exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, avoiding certain medications and drugs and incorporating a well-balanced low-sodium diet to the menu can help prevent, reduce and maintain high blood pressure.
Diets low in sodium are commonly advised for people with high blood pressure, but reducing salt is not all your food can do for you. Research has found that a person can greatly influence their personal health and reduce their blood pressure further by strictly following a fresh whole foods diet while avoiding fatty, fried, sugary and highly processed foods. Foods high in potassium, calcium and magnesium have shown to be especially beneficial in lowering and maintaining blood pressure.
Potassium helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt on your kidneys. Your kidneys help to control blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body. The more fluid, the higher the blood pressure. Your kidneys do this by filtering your blood and removing any extra fluid, which it stores in your bladder as urine. This process requires a delicate balance of sodium and potassium; too much sodium will reduce this ability and put strain on your kidneys and increase blood pressure. It is best to get your potassium from natural food sources like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, salad greens, spinach, peas, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, cantaloupe, prunes, apricots, fat- free milk and yogurt.
Calcium aids in muscle contraction and plays a vital role in the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels; which may help to regulate blood pressure. Though studies did not reflect any strong results, there was a small notable reduction. Healthy calcium-rich foods include low-fat dairy products like milk and plain yogurt. Non-dairy calcium-rich foods include leafy salad greens, spinach, broccoli, sardines, salmon, perch and rainbow trout.
Magnesium offers several health benefits for a properly functioning heart, such as regulating blood sugar levels and relaxing blood vessels and the actions of the heart muscle. Magnesium further helps to dilate blood vessels, prevents spasms in your heart muscle and blood vessel walls, dissolves blood clots, acts as an antioxidant as well aids in preventing arrhythmia. Signs of deficiencies in magnesium can include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and weakness. Foods high in magnesium include halibut, avocados, almonds, peas, spinach, pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, black beans, figs and swiss chard.
Choosing whole foods over dietary supplements is recommended as not all supplements come from natural sources or can be absorbed by your body as easily as whole foods. Supplements made from real whole foods are healthier than synthetic alternatives which have been found to be more harmful than beneficial in some cases. Choosing to eat a well-balanced meal plan with beneficial foods is your best bet to reducing and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Written by: J. Marshall
Try my Fattoush Salad recipe! Salad greens are excellent healing foods for Hypertension and High Blood Pressure.
Try my Creamy Orange Chia Seed Pudding recipe! Almonds and oranges are excellent healing food sources for Hypertension and High Blood Pressure.
• Hypertension Canada: https://www.hypertension.ca/en/hypertension/what-can-i-do/eat-a-healthy-diet
• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services / Your guide to Lowering Blood Pressure: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf
• American Heart Association / Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Managing-Blood-Pressure-with-a-Heart-Healthy-Diet_UCM_301879_Article.jsp#.WMGlgY5JlAY
• Every Day Health / High Blood Pressure DIet: http://www.everydayhealth.com/high-blood-pressure/guide/diet/
• Blood Pressure UK / Healthy Blood Pressure Diet: http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/BloodPressureandyou/Yourlifestyle/Eatingwell
• Mediline Plus / High Blood Pressure and Diet: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007483.htm
• Today’s Dietician / Eat to Lower Blood Pressure: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011012p18.shtml
• Statistics Canada / High Blood Pressure 2014: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2015001/article/14184-eng.htm
• Web MD / Medications That Cause High Blood Pressure: http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/medications-cause#1
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