Blood Pressure — Bringing It Down Before It’s Too Late

hh-12.jpgThere are simple measures you can take to improve your heart health by lowering your blood pressure before high blood pressure leads to serious complications.

Treating high blood pressure (BP) with medication involves either ‘fooling’ the kidneys into removing additional fluid from the body, or by making the heart beat slower and less forcefully. These drugs can help heart health but have other undesirable side effects (including sexual impotence, insomnia, fatigue and depression). Most people can control elevated blood pressure and improve their heart health without drugs, by implementing these simple proactive steps:

  • Slow your breathing. Ever heard someone tell an angry person to ‘take a deep breath’? Mental stress often unconsciously triggers shallow breathing and arterial contractions, which increases your blood pressure. By consciously taking slow, deep breaths several times a day, you ‘reset’ the autonomic nervous system, which regulates digestion and cardiovascular functions, and, incidentally, lowers your blood pressure.
  • Control your weight. Optimizing your weight can have an enormous impact on hypertension (high blood pressure). Shedding as little as five or ten pounds can lower BP — every pound of extra fat contains over sixty miles of tiny blood vessels — an added burden to the heart. For some people, losing just 5% of your body weight (10 pounds for a 200-lb person) can result in eliminating the need for medication.
  • Cut out salt. We only require about 500 mg of sodium each day, which can come from vegetables, without adding salt to our foods. The average American consumes 6,000-9,000 mg a day! A study by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that people with high BP who ate eight to ten servings of vegetables a day reduced their BP within weeks. The lesson? Dropping junk food will drop your BP.
  • Maintain social connections. Feeling connected to others, fitting in and having friends, all contribute to feelings of well being and appear to reduce stress. Being ‘part of a group’ and ‘feeling accepted’ can statistically improve your health as much as stopping smoking!
  • Supplement with pycnogenol. Chinese research has found that a pine bark extract, pycnogenol, can effectively relieve BP in mildly hypertensive people.
  • Take your vitamins. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid (folate) has been shown to decrease blood pressure through their antioxidant properties.

Your heart health is determined by your choices. These pro-active measures can lower your blood pressure, benefit your heart health and improve your life.

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