Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Newly Diagnosed with High Blood Pressure.

What can I do to lower my blood pressure without having to go on medication? I already eat healthy, exercise, and do not smoke. Larry B.

Dear Larry,

First of all, kudos to you for living a healthy lifestyle! Not smoking is a great step in preventing a whole host of chronic diseases so that is a big deal in itself. Eating healthy and exercising means even more bonus points for you!

Even when we think we're eating healthy, foods can affect different systems in our body differently--what's healthy for one condition may not be so for another. So here's what I know has been shown to help lower blood pressure in a significant portion of the population.

1) Lowering sodium intake: Even if you never salt your food there is a tremendous amount of sodium in canned foods (soups, stews, sauces), processed foods, smoked foods, luncheon meats and fast foods. Take a look at food labels from packaged foods you eat: If you eat at chain restaurants you can get the information on nutrition easily (either at the restaurant or on line). An average to aim for is 700 milligrams of sodium per meal, for a daily intake of 2000 milligrams. Many people find after a cursory search of their usual food products they are usually eating 5,000 or 6,000 milligrams a day! Be sure to look at the serving size when you check the sodium content on a label, too: many canned foods you eat at one sitting are considered two servings by the manufacturer.

2) Increasing your intake of calcium and potassium has been shown to help lower blood pressure. I have no idea what amounts of these minerals you are currently consuming. The guidelines for three servings of dairy products daily should help you get in close to the recommended 1000-1200 milligrams of calcium daily. Potassium is easily found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Guidelines for fruit and veggie intake range from 5 per day (total) to 12 per day---so chances are you could raise your servings in this group, even if you're already eating a healthy number on the smaller end of the scale.

3) I know of one man who was diagnosed with high blood pressure after eating black licorice. There is something in pure licorice root (so it would not be found in cherry candy licorice, for instance) that raises blood pressure. He backed off the licorice and did not have high blood pressure again for years. Are you taking any supplements? Herbs? some of these have side effects we haven't thought of, or may not know of. Cold medications or other over-the-counter products could be contributing to raising your blood pressure.

Be sure to ask your doctor for his input on specific amounts of sodium, calcium, or potassium you should be taking in daily, as these can vary greatly based on other conditions you have that I am not aware of!

1 comment:

  1. Great points indeed. I am an exercise physiologist and I would also add weight loss to the mix. just a slight drop in weight (10% of body weight for example) could also help. Focus on low intensity aerobic exercise and not heavy strength training as this will work the best for your BP and work in tandem with the other points that Laurie Beebe recommended
    Joe Cannon, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT