“The Silent Killer.” The bearer of the name is far more dangerous and deadly than the subject of any true crime podcast or serial killer Netflix binge. This particular serial killer is estimated to take over 1,000 lives every single day, and sends millions of people to the doctor and ER each year.
Nope, it’s not some new age Zodiac Killer—it’s hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. May is hypertension awareness month, and we wanted to shed some light on this “silent killer.”
For decades, salt was thought to be the main culprit behind hypertension; however, further research has found that sugar intake can be much more detrimental to blood pressure levels. You can read more about sugars effects on hypertension at a past blog linked here.
Sugar doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Recent research has found that oxidative stress also contributes to hypertension. Oxidative stress occurs when the body is unable to remove reactive oxygen species from the system, which results in tissue damage and inflammation.
In these inflammatory symptoms, we see the problems with hypertension. High blood pressure can lead to kidney failure, bone degeneration, atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels), stroke, heart attack, and even vision loss. A regulated blood pressure is important to our health, and when it skews too high, there are repercussions all over the body, especially when it remains high over a period of time.
Certain medications are helpful at lowering blood pressure by helping the body remove oxidative stress. However, these don’t get to the root which causes the oxidative stress in the first place, creating a band-aid solution which may not lead to true, lasting health.
When lifestyle and diet changes are utilized to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, we can see long-term improvements in hypertension. Below, we’ve listed five ways you can decrease your inflammation and oxidative stress to regulate your blood pressure over the long term.
1. Increase your antioxidant intake
Antioxidants directly reduce oxidative stress by removing the harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body. The ROS are the “bad guys” causing hypertension, and you can fight them by adding more “good guys” to your system in the form of antioxidants! This has direct effects on decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation so that your blood pressure can regulate properly.
To increase your antioxidants, the following foods are great:
- Berries! Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
2. Reduce your sugar and processed food intake
Sugar and processed foods are two components of a diet that can increase oxidative stress and inflammation. Reducing your intake of fast food, prepackaged foods, and sugary treats is one of the fastest ways to lower your blood pressure and boost your health!
If it’s hard for you, try these tips:
- If you opt for fast food options at the end of the day because it’s faster and more convenient, consider meal prepping at the beginning of the week so you have more ready-made meals after a long day.
- If you are a big fan of sodas, try brewing your own tea instead. Some are even on the sweeter side without having sugar—raspberry and peppermint tea are both full of flavor. You can add a small dollop of honey or stevia to sweeten it.
- If you’re big on coffee creamers, opt for regular half and half. And in lieu of coffee sweeteners, try stevia, allulose, or monk fruit instead. They have flavored versions of these available now. Here’s one to try: https://www.vitacost.com/now-foods-betterstevia-liquid-sweetener-english-toffee
3. Manage stress
Chronic stress is one of the leading causes of inflammation, which can lead to high blood pressure. We’ve listed a few of them below, but click here to read more about how you can manage your stress.
- Meditate daily for 5-10 minutes
- Start practicing breathwork (taking deep breaths with long exhales)
- Improve your sleep quality
- Create a plan to manage your stressors
4. Choose a few supplements — Magnesium, Vitamin B Complex, and Vitamin D
A few supplements in particular are also helpful in lowering your blood pressure.
First, magnesium helps decrease the tension on the walls of blood vessels, decreasing blood pressure. For more magnesium, check out Bio-optimizer’s all-seven forms of magnesium supplement, found here.
- Fish (wild caught)
are all great for magnesium and lowering your BP!
Vitamin B complex is a group of B vitamins (8 total) that support cardiovascular and cell health. Some foods rich in B vitamins include:
- Organ meats (liver, kidney)
- Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon)
- Shellfish (oysters, clams)
- Dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards)
- Beans (kidney, black, chickpeas)
- Nuts and seeds
- Blackstrap molasses
It may be hard to eat a balanced diet to get all the necessary B vitamins so you may want to supplement, which is what I do. This is the product I use: https://www.thorne.com/products/dp/stress-b-complex
Additionally, a lack of Vitamin D has been connected to poor cardiovascular health. Increasing vitamin D by spending more time outside and taking a vitamin D supplement can boost your overall health and blood pressure! It’s best to balance vitamin D with Vitamin K2 (supports D3 function and artery health) so here’s one to try: https://www.vitacost.com/nature-made-vitamin-d3-k2
You can also eat Vitamin D rich foods like:
- Cod liver oil
- Canned tuna
5. Exercise to boost circulation
Finally, exercise and movement are key. Hypertension is all about how efficiently circulation can happen in the body, and moving your body directly improves your circulation, as well as your cardiac health, mental wellness, and so much more!
The important thing here is regular exercise, generally at least 20 minutes per day. Starting with a small goal—walking for 20 minutes per day—and increasing it as you develop your exercise routine is a great way to begin. Your body needs movement, and when it comes to hypertension, you’ll see your blood pressure levels decrease the more you exercise.
You can also opt for exercises that are especially calming. For some, a walk in nature or through a park, or a yoga class, can have meditative effects as well. This gives you multiple ways to fight inflammation and decrease hypertension!
The story of hypertension has been changing in recent years, but with lifestyle changes, you can decide how it ends. Choose a few of these tips to implement during May—Hypertension Month—and notice how different you feel by the end of it!