1. Increase your Potassium Intake
It is a common recommendation by doctors to reduce your sodium intake when trying to reduce blood pressure, however, this is a somewhat incomplete suggestion. The reason for doctors recommending a reduction in sodium is that sodium increase fluid retention and promotes vasoconstriction (constriction of artery walls) → both of which significantly increase blood pressure.
However, sodium is needed for several important function in the body such as production of HCl and regulation of nerve and muscle function. After all, sodium is an electrolyte and essential mineral for human physiology. On the other hand, potassium is also an electrolyte and plays a very important role in balancing out the effects of sodium by reducing fluid retention and stimulating vasodilation (dilation of artery walls) → resulting in reduced blood pressure (see study). Remember, whether your blood pressure is low or high, both are a problem. That’s why it is important to work with all the mechanisms behind blood pressure regulation.
By increasing your potassium intake, you can significantly reduce blood pressure. Potassium also has many other important functions in the body such as blood sugar regulation, supporting proper muscle function, helping the heart maintain a regular beat, etc.
Ideally, one should keep their sodium intake at around 2300mg and their potassium intake at 4700mg daily. Sodium is often consumed very easily and should be monitored while potassium is really hard to get. There are certain foods which are rich in potassium such as avocado, leafy greens, sweet potato, etc.
Certain electrolyte mixes can also help one get enough potassium daily, such as This One.
2. Get more Magnesium
Just like sodium and potassium, another very important electrolyte and mineral is magnesium. Magnesium plays a centralized role in over 300 essential processes within the body. Many of which are directly connected to cardiovascular function such as maintaining heart rhythm → if you are deficient in magnesium, you may experience arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). Magnesium controls the nerve activity that regulates heart function. It works against the actions of calcium within the heart → calcium stimulates the heart contraction while magnesium relaxes the heart muscle. Magnesium also induces vasodilation that occurs independent of nitric-oxide → resulting in reduced blood pressure (see study).
In addition to the direct effects it has on the heart, Magnesium also relaxes the body by relaxing the muscles, calming the mind, and assisting with falling asleep thus reducing the effects of stress. Magnesium also offers benefits to other aspects of health by reducing blood sugar, regulating nerve conductivity, and reducing certain types of pain.
The problem with Magnesium, is that it has become very difficult to get enough of it from our diets. Due to certain farming practices, our foods no longer contain the same amount of nutrients that they had a few decades ago. You can get quite a bit of Magnesium from foods such as Avocado, Dark Chocolate, Nuts and seeds, however, you may also need to supplement.
There are many types of Magnesium supplements, the one I prefer is This One.
Speak to a doctor (who adopts nutrition into their practice) about how to correctly supplement with magnesium.
3. Control Your Breathing for a Few Minutes
Before your dismiss this idea as something irrelevant, I would urge you to reconsider. One of the most powerful things one could do for their overall health is a group of breathing exercises called “Pranayama”. Pranayama is part of Yoga and has been extensively studied for treating several conditions ranging from high blood pressure and high blood sugar to depression, anxiety, COPD, and more. These exercises are very simple and only have to be done for a few minutes each day, on an empty stomach (preferably first thing in the morning).
In one study, patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure where given a group of breathing exercises to do for 15 minutes a day (see study). At the end of the study there was a significant reduction in blood pressure. In another study, also done on patients with uncontrolled hypertension, pranayama was found to start having an effect after just 5 minutes (see study). Meaning that pranayama has is a quick acting solution. In this study, not only was there a reduction in blood pressure, but also heart rate, pulse pressure and mean arterial pressure.
While the exact mechanisms behind the effects of pranayama are still being studied, it is believed that is works via vagal nerve modulation resulting in normalization of autonomic cardiovascular rhythms.
Some of the breathing exercises are called:
1. Alternate nostril breathing (Anulom vilom pranayama)
2. Ocean breath (Ujjayi Pranamaya)
3. Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
Avoid the exercise known as Skull Shining Breath or Kapalbhati as this is used for low blood pressure.
I would recommend speaking to a yoga teacher and learning to do these exercises properly as they can have adverse effects if not done correctly.
4. Reduce Your Stress
I am sure you’re thinking that this is close to impossible, but let me share some simple solutions. Firstly, why is stress bad? Stress triggers the release of hormones and catecholamines such as Cortisol, Epinephrine, and Norepinephrine. This causes the body to go into a state of “fight or flight”. It causes an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, inflammation and blood viscosity → basically a breeding ground for disease. Cortisol basically triggers a series of events leading the production and release of things such as Renin, Angiotensin, and Aldosterone which increase blood pressure and heart rate. In fact, Aldosterone can actually damage the cardiac muscle.
Its understandable that life can be complicated and therefore the idea of reducing stress may seem difficult. However, there are many things that can be done to support healthy physiology as well as provide the body with a more positive bio-chemical balance.
In many cases, stress alone can be the cause of high blood pressure.
The simple way to resolve this is to engage in stress relieving activities such as:
– Nature walks
– Spending time with a pet of loved one
– Getting a massage, etc.
The more of this you incorporate into your life, the better your body manages stress and heals due to the improved biochemistry.
Alternatively, one can use “adaptogen herbs”. These are herbs that assist the body with adapting to stress by regulating the mechanisms behind the effects of stress such as Cortisol (see study). A few examples are:
– Holy Basil
– Ginkgo Biloba
These herbs offer a wide-range of health benefits ranging from improved circulation, energy, blood sugar, muscular strength, and cognitive function. Ashwagandha, for example, also improves testosterone levels in men, along with improved fertility, sexual function, and endurance. Holy Basil improves blood pressure as well as blood sugar and reduces uric acid levels.
These herbs must be used with proper supervision of a physician that specializes in their use (Ayurvedic doctors, Naturopathic doctors, Functional Medicine doctors, etc.).
5. Eat Blood Pressure Lowering Foods
Contrary to what many doctors (and google medicine experts lol) may say, many foods have actually been used in clinical research and found to be highly useful in literally treating certain illnesses.
For example, Pomegranates have been found to significantly reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and the effects of oxidative stress while increasing HDL cholesterol and improving endothelial function (see study). Pomegranates are actually one of the most well researched foods on earth with numerous clinical trials demonstrated its ability to effectively assist with cardiovascular health as well as oral health.
Other foods that have demonstrated beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart health in clinical research are:
– Avocado -> I put this at the top of the list (even though there are not specific BP related clinical studies due to the fact that they are rich in both potassium and magnesium.
– Blueberries (2)
– Black Seed (3)
– Flax Seed (4)
– Turmeric (5)
– Beetroot Juice (6)
– Celery Seed (7)
– Celery Juice (8)
– Watermelon (9)
– Dark Chocolate (10)
Incorporating these foods into your daily diet is an excellent way to assist with keeping your blood pressure under control. Of course, it is also important to make sure that your timing of foods is correct. For example, pomegranate juice is very sweet and contains a lot of sugar, therefore, combining it with something like avocado (which is rich in fat) would be quite damaging to the body – this is due to the fact that combining fats with sugars can lead to weight gain.
At the same time, it is also important to avoid bad foods such as:
– Junk food
– Processed foods
– Cured meats
– Chocolates (except dark chocolate)
– Refined carbs (white sugar, white flour, etc)
– Sodium filled foods, etc.
Remember, your body is a product of nutrition, meaning that what you put it is what you get out. Your body a basically a bunch of cells, and every cell has nutritional requirements. The body is a complex machine that can be easily damaged when provided with the wrong fuel. In addition to this, the same way a car needs maintenance and service, so does your body.
(Always use medicinal herb under the supervision of a doctor)
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by Dr. Nishal Ramnunan B.A.M.S.
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