The American Heart Association estimates that over 100 million American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. If left untreated, this can lead to serious health conditions. There is evidence that suggests that the risk of cardiovascular disease doubles for each additional 20 mg Hg systolic and 10mg Hg diastolic reading above 115/75 mm Hg. So getting blood pressure under control may be one of the best ways to protect your health.
Blood pressure is measured as the force that is exerted by the blood on the artery walls. The systolic reading (top number) indicates the force of each heartbeat and the diastolic (bottom number) indicates the force in between the heartbeats. The clinical guidelines for “elevated” blood pressure is above 120mm Hg systolic over 80 mm Hg diastolic.
In this two part blog, I’m going to share some evidence-based tips on natural ways to manage blood pressure.
Bay leaves are popular herbs to include in recipes such as soups and stews but did you know that they are also good for supporting the vascular system? This recent study on the Indonesian bay leaf showed it to be effective in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive pregnant women.
You can easily brew bay leaf tea at home. Put several leaves in 16 oz. of hot water and let steep. Add lemon and stevia or honey to taste. Here’s one to try:
Cranberries are not only for the holidays – they are a superfruit high in antioxidants, nutrient dense polyphenols and prebiotic fiber, which are all beneficial for your heart. This study suggests that cranberry supplementation is effective in managing systolic blood pressure, body mass index and HDL cholesterol. Cranberries are readily available during holiday season but the rest of the year, look for unsweetened cranberry concentrate. You can add several tablespoons in sparkling water with some lemon for a delicious drink.
Also, be careful when buying dried cranberries – most are loaded with sugar which is used in the drying and flavoring process. Here’s a brand without any added sugar:
These tiny seeds have been used over centuries as a trusted herbal remedy for a variety of ailments. Fennel seeds are rich in minerals needed to regulate blood pressure and they also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. In a study conducted at UC Irvine, researchers found that fennel along with other herbs activate a blood pressure-lowering potassium channel in the blood vessels.
Here’s a fennel seed tea to try:
Green tea is packed with polyphenolic compounds called catechins – the main catechin found in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Green tea has been touted for a variety of health benefits with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and weight loss among them. Green tea and its active components have also been studied for lowering blood pressure. In this study, subjects who drank four cups of green tea daily (equivalent to 500mg of catechins) showed lower systolic, diastolic and pulse pressures.
Here are several brands to try – look for organic if possible and check if it’s been tested for pesticides and contamination:
Time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting (IF) has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. IF is typically done where you eat within a 10 hour window. So if you have breakfast at 8am, plan to have dinner by 6pm – and try to limit snacking because every time you eat, your glucose and insulin levels will rise. Check out my blog on intermittent fasting.
Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in more than 600 biochemical reactions in our body like energy creation, nervous system regulation and muscle movements. Magnesium is critical for our cells to function but deficiencies are common. The National Institutes of Health warns that many older adults don’t get enough of this essential mineral.
Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation is effective in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive adults. You can increase your dietary intake of magnesium with leafy green, nuts (almonds, cashews), black beans, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, bananas, avocados, brown rice, yogurt and legumes. Another way to get magnesium is with Epsom salt baths – it is soothing and good for muscles.
If you are looking for supplements, here is a brand that provides all 7 forms of magnesium our body needs: https://bioptimizers.com/magnesium-breakthrough/
I also use this powdered magnesium in the evening to help relax and wind down…
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats containing Omega-3 fatty acids support heart function and lower blood pressure. This study found that in adults with hypertension, daily doses of omega-3 fatty acids showed clinically meaningful blood pressure reductions.
Here is the brand I recommend:
Potassium is an electrolyte that counteracts the effects of sodium and maintains consistent blood pressure. When diuretics are often prescribed for high blood pressure, it unfortunately accelerates the excretion of potassium by the body which creates the vicious cycle of water retention which was what the diuretic was designed to remove in the first place. The easiest way to replenish potassium is through our diet. Fruits, legumes, vegetables and dark leafy greens are good options.
Here are some foods that are high in potassium:
- Dried apricots – half a cup of dried apricots contains over 1000mg of potassium
- Potatoes – a medium baked potato with skin contains almost a 1000mg of potassium
- Leafy greens – a cup of Swiss chard has almost 1000mg of potassium, a cup of cooked spinach has up to 800mg
- Lentils – these small legumes have over 700mg of potassium per cup
- Prunes – half a cup of dried prunes contains 700mg of potassium
- Carrot juice – a cup of this tasty juice has almost 700mg of potassium
Probiotics have been investigated for their antihypertensive effects; this study shows that supplementation with probiotics resulted in a moderate to significant reduction for either systolic or diastolic blood pressure. Make sure to get plenty of probiotics from fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and yogurt. If choosing supplement form, look for ones with multiple strains and make sure to consume at least 100 billion colony-forming units of probiotics per day for at least two months.
Here are several to try:
If you like seaweed salad or sushi rolls with nori (seaweed sheets), you are in for a treat. Seaweed is rich in polyphenols and has a range of health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties which are also useful for high blood pressure. In this study done on children, seaweed consumption lowered diastolic blood pressure in boys and systolic blood pressure in girls.
I enjoy roasted seaweed for a snack – here’s one to try:
Experts indicate that over 40 percent of American adults may be deficient in vitamin D and this could have an impact on the epidemic of high blood pressure in the US. Studies have shown that people deficient in vitamin D are more likely to have high blood pressure. Vitamin D metabolism is involved in blood pressure regulation and works by suppressing the production of renin, an enzyme that promotes the activity of a blood pressure-raising protein. It is easy to get this measured through regular testing – talk to your doctor about obtaining your current level. I struggle with low vitamin D levels especially during winter months so supplement with appropriate dosages based on my test results.
Here are ones to try: