Blood Pressure management is not limited to anti-hypertensive medications. You have options. When a patient has elevated blood pressure, I do not merely strive to treat the numbers. I also look to address the cause. Why does this person have high blood pressure?
Many factors are involved in blood pressure regulation including kidney, liver, and thyroid function, adrenals and stress management, heart health and circulation, and digestive wellness and diet. You have the ability to decrease your blood pressure and thus your risk of stroke and heart disease by making very simple yet significant changes in diet and lifestyle.
1. Food as Medicine: Eat a diet high in fiber and good fats, rich in vegetables, nuts and seeds. Research shows that eating 4 stalks of celery per day or 8 tsp of celery juice 3x per day can decrease blood pressure! Avoid all processed foods for they are high in salt. Load up on foods high in potassium including avocado, apricots, cantaloupe, papaya and figs. Protect your blood vessels with eating plenty of garlic, onions, turmeric, cayenne, berries and wild-caught fish. Nourish your kidneys by drinking plenty of water- half your weight in ounces each day!
2. Remove the obstacles: Quit smoking now! Naturopathic medicine offers many tools to help you through the process. Avoid caffeine for it puts great stress on your adrenals and kidneys. Alcohol only in moderation as to decrease taxation on the liver.
3. Exercise: You must move your body! Even walking 30 minutes a day can make significant improvements in cardiovascular health. Blood pressure is a sign of how hard your heart has to work to pump blood throughout your body. The heart is the most important muscle in the body, keep it in shape.
4. Stress Management: Emotional stress can aboslutely increase blood pressure. When we experience stress, the body goes into a state of sympathetic dominance, a "fight or flight" reaction. Chronic stress takes a physical toll on the adrenal glands which in turn affects the rest of the body, inluding the cardiovascular system. Address your stress by practicing deep breathing, talk therapy, journaling, yoga, etc. Some herbs that are helpful for stress response include: valerian, hops, avena (oat), passiflora, kava, and scutellaria.
5. Supplementation: Everyone can benefit from essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and fish. A quality fish oil supplement protects the heart and blood vessels, lowers cholesterol, and decreases inflammation. Other supplements to consider include CoQ10, Magnesium, a B complex, garlic and hawthorne berry. Speak with Dr. Birr about supplementation in regards to your blood pressure. Remember that hypertension is not a disease, but a symptom. Every individual's case is different, and it is important to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms.
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.