You likely know someone who has high blood pressure— it is a common condition in adults. But it is a condition that is simple to work with in most cases. Let’s jump in…
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, often referred to as hypertension, is when the force (pressure) of your blood pressing on the tubes that encase your blood (vessels) is too high. Blood pressure changes many times throughout the day, and it is normal/healthy for it to go up with exertion. For example, if you are jogging, you want your blood pressure to increase so that oxygenated blood can make it to your legs for you to stay upright during your exercise. However, when you’re at rest, you want there to be enough pressure to keep blood moving (blood pressure can be too low) but not enough to cause stress on the vessels.
The top number in a blood pressure reading is called systolic and refers to the time when there is contraction. The bottom number is the diastolic reading and refers to when the heart is at rest.
A person will be diagnosed with high blood pressure using the following medical standards:
These standards have changed a bit over the past couple of years and I suspect it has to do with the desire to medicate more people. (Sad but likely.)
“I feel okay…why do I need to worry about my elevated blood pressure?”
Elevated blood pressure is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” because many people are unaware of any symptoms, despite its potentially fatal consequences. One of the major challenges around treating high blood pressure is fostering awareness.3 It is estimated that around 50% of people with this condition are unaware that they have it.4 Even a slight elevation increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in the US.3 Hypertension is also associated with a higher risk of stroke, kidney disease and all-cause morbidity.4
What are the potential causes of high blood pressure?
There are 2 types of high blood pressure: primary (aka essential) and secondary. Secondary high blood pressure is a result of some other disease such as kidney disease. This post will focus primarily on primary blood pressure. Causes of this include:
- High stress5
- Genetic tendencies6
- Lack of exercise6
- High sodium/low potassium intake.6 (Note that this imbalance is rare in natural foods and is most often a result of eating processed foods.)
- Lack of sleep7
- Obesity and excess weight6
- Excessive alcohol intake9
Other causes can contribute as well (medications, structural issues, etc.).
What is going on in the body when you have high blood pressure?
As mentioned above, the excess pressure on the blood vessels over time results in high blood pressure and the risks that come with it. Here’s a bit more detail about the common causes of elevated blood pressure:
- One of the most common causes is high sodium in the diet from unnatural processed foods. This causes an imbalance in electrolytes and breaks down the integrity of the endothelial tissue, which lines the blood vessels.8 These processed high sodium foods cause the blood to become thicker and thus it puts more work on the heart to pump harder. Sodium found in natural whole food sources is good and actually helpful. Pink salt can be helpful as well in place of white table salt. Most people consume 70% of their toxic sodium from processed foods. The more whole foods that you eat, the less you need to worry about this.
- Dehydration is another cause. One of the important connections to make is that dehydration will exacerbate the high sodium and vice versa. Increasing hydration, along with reducing sodium intake, can be profoundly helpful for restoring healthy blood pressure levels.
- High stress also plays a major role in elevated blood pressure. Although occasional short-term stress is normal and usually no problem, long-term chronic stress will elevate the blood pressure and put stress on the cardiovascular system.10 Reducing stress is a critical part of improving blood pressures.
- Excess bodyweight has been found to be directly linked to high blood pressure.6 For this reason, there is a direct correlation between weight gain and increased blood pressure. Added weight causes the heart to work harder as it has more mass to oxygenate. If you have weight to lose, even a small reduction can prove helpful.
Is there a food plan that can help?
A whole food plant-based diet is a great option to help with high blood pressure.11 Plants that are rich in natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber support healthy blood pressure by thinning the blood, supporting the microbiome and reducing sodium as well as supporting a healthy bodyweight.12, 13
Some specific foods/food categories that can be especially helpful:
- Natural diuretics work to regulate fluids and salt in the body which both have implications on high blood pressure. Some excellent natural whole food diuretics include celery, parsley, watermelon, onions, garlic and green or black tea.
- High potassium foods such as squash, sweet potatoes, lentils, bananas and dark leafy greens are great foods to balance sodium and blood pressure levels.
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in many micronutrients that can thin the blood (such as vitamin K), which can also help reduce blood pressure even more effectively than some medications.14
- Whole grains such as rice, oats and quinoa can help reduce high blood pressure (although in this case the exact mechanism as to why is not yet determined).15
Of course, although food is important, remember that reducing stress cannot be overlooked. Eliminate stress that you have control over and develop stress management techniques for the things you can’t control. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing are all great options, just to name a few.
Supplements that can be helpful:
The concern with supplements is that you always want to be addressing the real source of the issue, rather than just using a Band-Aid approach. For example, if stress is the cause of your high blood pressure, you’d supplement differently (perhaps magnesium, B vitamins, Fermented Mushrooms, AdrenaVen, or Adaptogen) than if obesity/weight is the cause (in which you could supplement with Green Tea ND, Fermented Turmeric, and/or Lean Advantage). Also, if dehydration is the cause… Please, don’t worry about supplements until you are DRINKING WATER!
That said, here are 2 general recommendations that can be helpful for many people:
- Magnesium (lactate)- 200-500 mg/day- I love magnesium because it plays so many roles in the body. Think of magnesium as a relaxer… It can help reduce stress responses and relax blood vessels (thus reducing blood pressure).16 This is great to take with dinner or in the evening. Magnesium is safe but larger doses can cause loose stool for some people.
- Allicidin (wild bear garlic)-2000-5000 mcg/day- Allicin is the active component of garlic that gives it incredible immune properties as well as supporting healthy blood pressure levels by improving blood vessels.17 Garlic is also safe but can have the side effect of causing a garlic-y smell to permeate… At least you’ll be safe from vampires;)
Stick to it…
Remember that, unlike medications, foods, herbs and whole food supplements and lifestyle changes can take time to really alter your physiology. There’s not a quick fix. To really put these things to the test, go all-in for at least 6 weeks. On the bright side, rather than side effects, you will likely experience lots of side-benefits along the way (better sleep, energy, focus, skin, hair, elimination, etc.).
If you’ve been working at this for a long time and still aren’t seeing improvements, I can assure you that you’re missing something. I’d love to help you figure it out! Call the clinic today for information about how you can join the New Hope Health family! 269-204-6525
1. Pete. Stress Image. Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/stress-anxiety-depression-unhappy-2902537/. Accessed April 27, 2021.
2. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure. Accessed June 17, 2020.
3. Carey RM, Muntner P, Bosworth HB, Whelton PK. Prevention and Control of Hypertension: JACC Health Promotion Series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.008
4. Oparil S, Acelajado MC, Bakris GL, et al. Hypertension. Nat Rev Dis Prim. 2018. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2018.14
5. Spruill TM, Butler MJ, Thomas SJ, et al. Association Between High Perceived Stress Over Time and Incident Hypertension in Black Adults: Findings From the Jackson Heart Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019. doi:10.1161/JAHA.119.012139
6. Mucci N, Giorgi G, Ceratti SDP, Fiz-Pérez J, Mucci F, Arcangeli G. Anxiety, stress-related factors, and blood pressure in young adults. Front Psychol. 2016. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01682
7. Aggarwal B, Makarem N, Shah R, et al. Effects of inadequate sleep on blood pressure and endothelial inflammation in women: Findings from the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018. doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.008590
8. Watso JC, Farquhar WB. Hydration status and cardiovascular function. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11081866
9. Husain K, Ansari RA, Ferder L. Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention. World J Cardiol. 2014. doi:10.4330/wjc.v6.i5.245
10. Gerin W, Zawadzki MJ, Brosschot JF, et al. Rumination as a mediator of chronic stress effects on hypertension: A causal model. Int J Hypertens. 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/453465
11. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure ameta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547
12. Chiavaroli L, Nishi SK, Khan TA, et al. Portfolio Dietary Pattern and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Trials. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.004
13. Chuang SY, Chiu THT, Lee CY, et al. Vegetarian diet reduces the risk of hypertension independent of abdominal obesity and inflammation: A prospective study. J Hypertens. 2016. doi:10.1097/HJH.0000000000001068
14. Goraya N, Simoni J, Pruszynski J, Xiang P, Wesson D. Blood pressure control is better and less expensive in chronic kidney disease when associated metabolic acidosis is treated with fruits and vegetables rather than sodium bicarbonate. Hypertension. 2016.
15. Kashino I, Eguchi M, Miki T, et al. Prospective association between whole grain consumption and hypertension: The Furukawa nutrition and health study. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12040902
16. Dibaba DT, Xun P, Song Y, Rosanoff A, Shechter M, He K. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or noncommunicable chronic diseases: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017. doi:10.3945/ajcn.117.155291
17. Ried K. Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis. Exp Ther Med. 2019. doi:10.3892/etm.2019.8374
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.