BY JOSEPH MERCOLA
Many people go about their lives unaware that their blood pressure levels may be creeping higher, even as it is maintained within the normal range, as they age or add on extra pounds.
Things you take for granted – like remembering names or your ability to think or learn – can be affected.
I strongly advise you to know your numbers. Get your blood pressure tested right away if you haven’t in the last two years. The risk of not knowing – and not acting – is simply too great. You have many options available to take control.
A healthy blood pressure is one of the key measures of a healthy heart, so your blood pressure is vitally important!
What exactly is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force against the walls of your arteries in response to the pumping of your heart.
The amount of blood being pumped and the flexibility of your arteries both influence that force. Your blood pressure can rise when either or both of these things happen:
- Your arteries contain a large amount of blood
- Your arteries lose some of their flexibility
If your arteries become less flexible and can’t expand easily to handle the extra amount of blood flow, your blood pressure rises.
When your blood pressure rises, your heart has to work harder to keep blood flowing. Certain situations could cause this increased demand for a short time – like high-intensity training – but that’s not an issue if you’re healthy.
The problem is when it’s continuous. Forcing your heart to pump hard without a break can place it under a great deal of stress.
And here’s a fact you may not know about blood pressure… When your blood pressure is high within the normal range, your arteries can become stiffer, which makes your heart work harder – and your blood pressure go even higher within the normal range.
The U.S. Joint National Committee (JNC) on blood pressure recently stated:
“The potential benefits of a healthy diet, weight control, and regular exercise cannot be overemphasized. These lifestyle treatments have the potential to improve blood pressure control and even reduce medication needs.”
If you have questions about your blood pressure – and for that matter, rising blood sugar or insulin levels or an expanding waistline – know there’s much you can do to help maintain normal healthy levels. Here are 6 of my top tips:
Get plenty of exercise, ideally barefoot and outdoors in the sun
Get active and walk more steps.
Exercise is one of your most powerful strategies for managing your blood pressure and your insulin level.
Try tracking your steps with a fitness tracker or your smartphone and shoot for 7,000-10,000 steps a day. And if you work at a desk all day, make sure you stand up, or better yet, switch to a stand-up desk like I did.
Ideally, exercise outdoors with bare feet. Studies show that walking barefoot outside – called Earthing or grounding – improves both your blood viscosity and flow, which regulate blood pressure.
Breathe deeply and slowly and let go of stress.
The way you breathe can affect your blood pressure. One method of breathing, the Buteyko Method, was discovered by a 26-year old Russian physician while trying to manage his own blood pressure.
Slow, deep breathing and practices such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong help decrease stress hormones, and in turn, lower an enzyme that raises blood pressure. Also, inhale slowly and exhale deeply for 5 minutes twice a day.
There’s a strong link between stress and blood pressure. If you have unaddressed negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness, you’re less able to cope with normal, everyday stressors.
The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are outstanding ways to transform your suppressed, negative emotions and relieve the stress in your life.
Get the processed foods out of your cart – and out of your home.
Many processed foods contain high levels of sugar and fructose, processed salt, unhealthy trans fats, and damaged omega-6 vegetable oils – all things that can affect your blood pressure and health.
In fact, I believe one of the primary causes of blood pressure issues is related to your tissues becoming insulin- and leptin-resistant in response to a high-carbohydrate and processed food diet!
As your tissues become more resistant to their actions and your insulin and leptin levels rise, so does your blood pressure. In a group of study subjects who were insulin-resistant, nearly two-thirds also had blood pressure above optimal levels.
A good rule to remember: buy food that still looks like the original food. In other words, brilliantly colored, sweetened fruit rollups are NOT the same as fresh, organic berries or apples!
Shop the outer isles of your grocery store. This is where you’ll find the fresher, unprocessed foods like produce, meat, and eggs. Even better, visit your local farmer’s market. Look for grass fed and pasture-finished meats.
Eat more fermented foods and consider a probiotic supplement.
While many doctors still cling to the idea that limiting sodium is the “cure-all” for blood pressure issues, I’m not convinced.
Sure, it’s wise to cut out processed salt (the kind found in processed foods and most salt shakers).
But here’s something I think might help your blood pressure equally as much: balance your gut flora.
In a recent study, participants experienced positive results when they added probiotics to their diets. A minimum of 100 billion CFUs per day for eight weeks was required.
Rather than relying on commercial yogurt and milk products for your probiotics, I recommend eating fermented foods each day.
Optimise your vitamin D levels.
I talked earlier about how a lack of flexibility of your arteries can affect your blood pressure.
Researchers have discovered that both trans fats and a lack of vitamin D can contribute to stiff arteries. And too little vitamin D is related to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, too.
Sunlight exposure – my preferred way for you to get vitamin D – increases the level of nitric oxide in your skin, which helps dilate your blood vessels.
Get your vitamin D levels tested regularly
Eat more potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral, but also an electrolyte, and plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Many people believe salt to be one culprit behind high blood pressure. Studies now reveal it is an imbalance between the intake of sodium and potassium that may be causing the problem.
Eating food rich in potassium such as avocado, cremini mushrooms and green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts can help to correct this imbalance.
Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
The latest research suggests that the biggest benefit of eating lots of vegetables and fruits may be for your heart and blood pressure.
Certain fruits and vegetables contain a type of phytonutrient called polyphenols that have been shown to support healthy normal blood pressure and cardiovascular health.*
Many Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables – the CDC reported in 2013 that the average adult eats less than 3 servings a day.
Do your heart and blood pressure a favor and eat plenty of fresh, organic produce each day.