How To Reverse High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?Luke Coutinho
“I have high blood pressure,” most people say this as casually as if they have gotten the flu. It is alarming. A household name, high blood pressure or hypertension, is a condition that plagues millions across the globe. It is termed a silent killer. Before you think that the answer is just popping pills, we want to tell you this. In our line of work, we have successfully consulted and helped people reverse their high blood pressure with lifestyle. Does this mean we encourage you to jump off your medication? Certainly NOT.
Lifestyle medicine is not alternative medicine. It cannot and will not replace what your doctor prescribes. It is all about using your medication as your crutch so that the high blood pressure is controlled and doesn’t create further damage. But if you don’t want to be on a pill for a lifetime, you need to address the root cause of your problem and make lifestyle changes over and above them. As you start making these changes, your systolic and diastolic begins to get better, and your doctor reduces your medication and eventually weans you off them safely.
Yes, a tiny percentage of people with high blood pressure may require medications for longer due to their genetic predisposition or underlying problems that may have escalated. For instance, a combination of high blood pressure with diabetes, high triglycerides, and chronic kidney disease will need medication to protect the health of your kidney, blood vessels, and heart. But even then, making the right lifestyle changes can help you.
Hypertension, when uncontrolled, can increase your risk of stroke, heart attacks, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, and so on.
What happens when you have high blood pressure?
- There is inflammation in the endothelial cells that line up the walls of the arteries. It further builds up the pressure, narrows and hardens the arteries, and restricts blood supply to the brain. Over time, this could lead to stroke, paralysis, or cardiac arrest.
- It could lead to CKD (chronic kidney disease). Yes, there are a handful of reasons that can lead to CKD. But high blood pressure is one of them. This fact is not to scare but to motivate you to work towards prevention and understand its correlation. Your kidneys filter out waste products and fluids. A blood vessel supplies blood and nutrients to the kidneys to make this possible. When you have high blood pressure, this vessel gets harder resulting in a lack of blood supply to the kidneys, thus compromising their function.
- High blood pressure can complicate your existing diabetes. A combination of diabetes and high blood pressure is one of the worst diseases. You may go on popping pills, but it will only put more pressure on your kidneys.
- Did you also know that high blood pressure is one of the major causes of erectile dysfunction and crashing libido?
- Yes, in some cases, high blood pressure could be genetic but don’t blame it only on your genes. While genes play a role, how you eat, move, sleep, and think can influence how these genes express themselves, thanks to epigenetics.
Important terms to understand when it comes to high blood pressure:
Most people out there are not suffering because they’re fat or obese alone. But because they have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. When you look at your lipid profile, you don’t just look at your total cholesterol. Break it down to your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and triglyceride ratio. If you have poor HDL levels and high triglyceride levels coupled with insulin resistance, diabetes/pre-diabetes, excessive belly fat, and fat around your core, midriff, and lower back, you have metabolic syndrome. Get your tests done to identify and fix this at its root. Join our Metabolic Syndrome Program under You Care Wellness here.
The hormone insulin has a vascular function. This means that it stimulates the production of nitric oxide from your endothelial cells and relaxes your blood vessels to allow better blood flow. It encourages glucose absorption from your blood to reach your cells and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. The problem exists when you have insulin resistance, where your cells cannot respond to insulin as they should. It causes your blood sugar levels to stay high and decrease the elasticity of your blood vessels by constricting them. It can lead to high blood pressure too.
Looking at reversing high blood pressure? Here are some top food and lifestyle changes to adopt:
- Move from refined oils to cold-pressed or wood-churned oils.
- Look at a diet rich in:
- Nuts and seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts), thanks to its magnesium to good fatty acid content.
- Garlic is powerful to manage high blood pressure. Consume it raw. If you don’t like eating it raw, you can cook it a little. Exposing it to heat will make it lose some properties. You can finely chop it and sprinkle it over your food.
- One of my favorite foods when it comes to hypertension is amla or Indian gooseberry. Mix half a teaspoon of dry amla powder with water. You can opt to add a teaspoon of raw unpasteurized honey. You can even do amla juice, but the dry amla powder is extremely potent. Have this on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. If you forget you can even have it 45 minutes after your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Onion is rich in flavonoids (quercetin) which can help dilate your blood vessels. Follow the age-old Indian tradition of having raw onion with every meal.
- Eat foods that can boost your nitric oxide levels or are rich in L-arginine. Some of these include garlic, dark chocolate, beetroot/beetroot juice, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and so on.
- Foods like ethically sourced A2 yogurt, and cooked tomatoes (rich in lycopene), are great for heart health and blood pressure.
- Dark chocolate > 70% is rich in flavonoids and can help reduce blood pressure. However, consume it in moderation.
- Green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and hibiscus tea are also effective in managing your blood pressure. Do not add milk or sugar. A cup or two preferably an hour after your meals may help. Excess tea/coffee (more than two cups in a day) can also aggravate high blood pressure. Consume in moderation.
- Other foods/spices that are effective for hypertension include moringa (drumsticks or leaves), basil, ginger, celery, cardamom, and cinnamon.
- Anything that contains Vitamin C – lemon water, ascorbic acid-rich fruits, and vegetables, or a supplement is good to maintain your blood pressure.
- If you are on a high sodium diet, constantly eating junk and processed foods doused in excessive salt, you need to cut it down. From our experience, we have noticed a drop in our clients’ blood pressure by simply cutting down on their outside meals. From 10 meals a week, they came down to 1 meal a week. Do not go no-sodium. Prefer going low-sodium. Sodium is a super important mineral and a complete lack of it can also hurt your kidney. You could move from sodium chloride to potassium chloride, which is pink salt. Shop for it here.
- Add potassium-rich foods like green vegetables, nuts, seeds, potatoes, or even a glass of sattu. If your diet is balanced, you’re going to get sufficient potassium. But if you already have high potassium levels (in case of chronic kidney disease), be careful. If you have two or more co-existing conditions like high blood pressure and kidney disease, it can be dangerous. Make an informed choice by keeping your doctor in the loop about your potassium intake.
- We need the right amount of calcium to maintain blood pressure levels. If you have low calcium levels, get them checked and increase your calcium intake through natural foods or supplements (under supervision).
- Those with low magnesium also suffer from blood pressure issues. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, grains, and lentils. So, eat a natural wholesome balanced diet.
- Stop drinking at least until your systolic and diastolic get better. Then you can slowly start drinking again. But DO NOT binge drink.
- Smoking creates hypoxia in the body. This shoots your blood pressure by activating stem cells that don’t need to be activated. It lowers your immunity over time. If you’re a smoker, learn to cut down. Get professional help if needed to quit.
- When we have a sedentary lifestyle our blood circulation is poor. We have more plaque build-up that is further causing your pressure to rise. Sitting is the new smoking. You don’t have to buy a gym membership or sign up for a class. Just make use of your legs, get up and walk! Even a 30-45 minutes walk daily is good enough.
- At the same time, understand that overtraining is just as worse as undertraining. If you are overtraining and under-resting or overtraining and undernourished, you are creating damage to your blood vessels and your blood flow. You have a high pulse rate/heart rate which can shoot your pressure. So, engage in adequate exercise.
- If you have an existing condition or side effects of ongoing treatment or medications, try to bring chronic inflammation under control, so that you do not get high blood pressure as a primary or a secondary condition.
- Kidney disease can also cause your pressure to be high. Check your kidney function.
- Diabetes can also lead to silent blood pressure. If you are constantly experiencing headaches, migraines, dizziness, and blurred vision, get it checked to adopt corrective measures.
- Thyroid conditions and endocrine tumors (in rare cases) can also lead to unexplained high blood pressure. Check for this.
- Illegal drugs can also cause high blood pressure over time. Avoid them.
- From the lifestyle aspect, did you know that chronic stress is also the number one cause of high blood pressure? When you are constantly stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. To deal with the flight or fight response, your adrenal gland starts producing adrenaline. Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue. It constricts your blood vessels and leads to high blood pressure. Navigate your stress.
- Even a 1% drop in hydration levels can become stressful for the body leading to a change in blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels, inflammation, and so on. Stay adequately hydrated.
- Intermittent fasting the scientific, smart, and supervised way, not the wrong way with coffee and tea. Don’t compete with your friends over fasting hours. Even 12 hours of fasting on water or dry fasting (depending on your health conditions) can also help you reduce your blood pressure.
- Deep breathing and pranayama can be powerful to reduce blood pressure.
- Breath or prana is free. Yet most of us do not use it. When a patient comes to us with a high systolic and diastolic, we make them spend 10 minutes in deep breathing. It works like magic and knocks their systolic and diastolic pressure from 10 to even 20 points.
- What happens when you practice deep breathing? It relaxes you and tricks your body to shift from a state of fight and flight to rest and digest (from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system). When this happens, your blood vessels relax and blood flows more freely. Your blood sugar levels drop, cholesterol gets better, and your blood pressure drops. You can try different pranayamas: simple belly breathing, box breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing.
- How should I do diaphragmatic belly breathing?
- Sit cross-legged with your spine erect. Keeping an erect spine enables oxygen to flow freely through your body. Now close your eyes. Keep one hand on your chest, one hand on your tummy.
- As you inhale, your tummy should rise. Think of it as a balloon and how it inflates when air gets in. As you exhale, the stomach goes in. Think of it as a balloon that is deflating as air moves out. Try this technique for six deep breaths.
- It takes you a minute and a half. Do this 5-10 times a day.
- There is enough evidence from medical science talking about sleep deprivation and its connection with stress hormones and shooting up your blood pressure. Adopt consistent sleep and wake-up times. You can pop all the pills in the world, but if you don’t sleep right at night, your blood pressure will rise. Sleep is free so utilize it.
- Meditation, yoga, working out, engaging in hobbies, practicing acceptance, and letting go are magic drugs that will help you relax and control your high blood pressure.
The bottom line
If you have high blood pressure, work hard to bring that down naturally. If you have anxiety and chronic stress, don’t accept it as your nature. Take the charge and fix it. Respect your medication and adopt these lifestyle changes with self-discipline and consistency.
ALSO WATCH: Reversing High Blood Pressure Is Possible With THIS
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