Lower blood pressure naturally

32% of Australian adults have high blood pressure and many of these are prescribed medication to take daily. There are many lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure naturally before resorting to pills & medication.

Sleep

Sleep is often overlooked when talking about high blood pressure. Researchers suggest that a lack of sleep inhibits your body's ability to regulate stress hormones, resulting in a higher blood pressure. Although the amount of sleep you should be getting varies from person to person, aiming for around 7-8 hours of sleep each night can positively influence your blood pressure. 

Dietary changes

The best known diet for controlling high blood pressure is the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which was created by the National Institute of Health in the US. This diet promotes eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products whilst limiting intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.

For the average sized person looking to maintain a healthy weight, their weekly recommendations would be as follows:

Grains (mainly whole grains)

    ~ Frequency: 6-8 serves per day

    ~ What's a serve?  1 slice whole grain bread

                                     1/2 cup cooked cereal

                                     1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta

Vegetables

    ~ Frequency: 4-5 serves per day

    ~ What's a serve?  1 cup raw leafy greens

                                     1/2 cup chopped raw or cooked vegetables

                                     1/2 cup  (120ml) low-sodium vegetable juice

Fruit

    ~ Frequency: 4-5 serves per day

    ~ What's a serve?  1 medium fruit

                                     1/4 cup dried fruit

                                     1/2 cup  fresh, frozen or canned fruit

                                     1/2 cup  (120ml) 100% fruit juice

Dairy (Low fat)

    ~ Frequency: 2-3 serves per day

    ~ What's a serve?  1 cup (250ml) milk

                                     1 cup (250g) yoghurt

                                     40g cheese

Lean meats, poultry & fish

    ~ Frequency: 6 or less per day

    ~ What's a serve?  30g cooked lean meat, skinless poultry or fish

                                     1 egg (no more than 4 per week)

                                     2 egg whites

Nuts, seeds & legumes

    ~ Frequency: 4-5 serves per week

    ~ What's a serve?  1/3 cup (40g) nuts

                                     2 tablespoons peanut butter

                                     2 tablespoons (15g) seeds

                                     1/2 cup  cooked legumes (dried beans or peas)

Fats & oils

    ~ Frequency: 2-3 serves per day

    ~ What's a serve?  1 teaspoon soft margarine

                                     1 teaspoon vegetable oil

                                     1 tablespoon mayonnaise

                                     2 tablespoons salad dressing

Sweets & added sugars

    ~ Frequency: 5 or less per week

    ~ What's a serve?  1 tablespoon sugar

                                     1 tablespoon jelly or jam

                                     1/2 cup sorbet

                                     1 cup  (250ml) sugar-sweetened lemonade

The frequency may sound like a large number but note the portion sizes e.g. one portion of meat is 30g, so you would easily reach your maximum of 6 portions a day with one large 300g chicken breast.

Salt

Salt is also one of the key dietary factors that can affect blood pressure.  It has been estimated that a reduction in salt intake from 10g a day to 6g will reduce blood pressure and could lead to a 16% reduction in deaths from strokes and a 12% reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease worldwide. The majority of our salt intake doesn’t come from the salt we add to food, but from processed foods like ready-meals, tinned food, cheese, bread, breakfast cereals, ready-made sauces, takeaways and processed meats. Nutrition Australia recommends that we limit salt intake to less than 4g a day (the equivalent of 1600 mg of sodium).

Alcohol

Over time, drinking too much alcohol can affect your heart. If you do have alcohol, stick within the recommended guidelines of less than 2 standard drinks on any day.

Exercise

The Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science recommends that people with high blood pressure focus on aerobic exercise for the best heart benefits - this includes brisk walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, dancing, or anything that gets your heart rate up for a sustained period of time. They warn against doing short intense bursts of exercise such as sprinting or heavy lifting as this can increase blood pressure to a dangerous level.

Tobacco

Smoking or chewing tobacco not only raises blood pressure temporarily, but it can also increase blood pressure in the long term. The tobacco damages the lining of your artery walls which can lead to narrowing of the arteries and increased blood pressure.

Stress

No-one chooses to be stressed, but if you’re concerned about high blood pressure it’s especially important to try and reduce stress levels. Whenever possible, avoid highly stressful situations and practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, gentle yoga or other physical activity regularly.

Remember, if you’re concerned about your blood pressure seek advice from your health professional and always seek guidance from an expert before making drastic changes to your lifestyle. 

Written by Ruth Tongue

(MSc Nutrition)

Source:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf