High blood pressure or hypertension is common in the American population. So common, it occurs in one third of adults. High blood pressure MUST be addressed because it can cause a stroke, kidney damage, vision loss and/or damage to the arteries and the heart if it is uncontrolled.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHg.
The first or higher number in a blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure and the lower or second number is the diastolic pressure.
Pre-hypertension readings are between 120 – 139 and 80 – 89. Stage 1 hypertension readings are between 140 – 159 and 90 – 99. Stage 2 hypertension readings are 160 or higher and 100 or higher.
Making some lifestyle changes can affect blood pressure in a positive way. Some strategies include weight loss, reducing caffeine intake, reducing sodium intake from processed and packaged foods and reducing alcohol intake.
Stress reduction may also lower blood pressure. Relaxation techniques including yoga, meditation and light to moderate exercise may also help.
Symptoms and Causes of High Blood Pressure
Symptoms of hypertension include headaches, nosebleeds and dizziness. However, in most cases there are no symptoms (unless it goes very high). That is why it is important to get your blood pressure taken on a regular basis, especially as you age.
There are many causes of high blood pressure, stress being a top cause. That can be emotional stress or physical stress. That is why it is important to maintain a healthy weight. A higher body weight puts more pressure on the arterial walls as well as pressure on the heart to pump more.
Your activity level also affects blood pressure. A lower heart rate results from a more conditioned body which results from regular moderate exercise. Consistency is the most important part of any exercise program.
Use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs also affect blood pressure and may affect the heart.
Salt Restriction is a Controversy
There is a lot of controversy about whether or not salt restriction is indicated in cases of high blood pressure.
The new guidelines recommend daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg among persons who are 51 and older and 1,500 mg for those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
This ignores or overlooks recent research that points to obesity and other causes, not salt, as the main culprit in rising blood pressure rates. Many nutritionists predict the guidelines will worsen, not improve, the obesity crisis, because people will consume more calories to satisfy their salt appetite for salt.
Note: Most of the studies indicate amounts for sodium intake as opposed to amounts for salt. A general rule of thumb is that 1500 – 2300 mg of sodium (the current guidelines) translates to 4 – 6 gms of salt.
Morton Satin is known as the Salt Guru and is the Vice President of Science and Research for the Salt Institute.
Mr. Satin researched military records in order to find out how much salt is needed. He found that between the war of 1812 and WWII, people were eating 18 – 20 gms of salt a day! In those days everything was preserved with salt.
Today, around the world, people who can get salt, eat between 7 – 12 gms of salt a day. About half of what it used to be.
However, let’s not forget that people were also eating many times more potassium, which helps to balance the sodium intake.
When To Restrict Salt
All that said, there are some people who will benefit from salt restriction. Some people have an inherited salt sensitivity because of a malfunction in the kidney. These folks would need to restrict salt if they are hypertensive.
However, according to this this study in Kidney International it has been suggested that a potassium deficiency may induce salt sensitivity. Folks that do not eat potassium rich foods like fruits and vegetables are more at risk for deficiency.
Additionally, patients with chronic renal disease benefit from salt restriction. If the kidneys are impaired and are not able to filter sodium well, it can cause protein in the urine (proteinurea) which can be dangerous.
This is a complicated issue and needs to be evaluated by your medical doctor.
Remedies Found to Lower Blood Pressure
1 – Hibiscus Tea and Hibiscus Extract have been associated with with reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure and is considered a promising treatment for hypertension. Hibiscus is a diuretic.
2 – Garlic is the old stand-by for high blood pressure. The active constituents in garlic, including allicin, are thought to act on the body’s nitric oxide system which relaxes the arteries and lowers systolic blood pressure. This review of 11 studies, published in BCM Cardiovascular Disorders suggests that garlic is better than placebo in reducing blood pressure.
3 – Co Enzyme Q10 has also been found to be effective in reducing blood pressure. This study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine noted that CoQ10 supplements significantly lowered diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
Even the Mayo Clinic notes that there is good supporting evidence for the use of CoQ10 for the treatment of high blood pressure.
4 – Celery Seed Extract has also been shown to lower blood pressure by its action as a diuretic. A pilot study was conducted on humans and found celery seed extract to significantly lower blood pressure.
5 – Rauwolfia Extract is made from Indian snakeroot and has been used for a variety of conditions including high blood pressure. One of the chemicals in Indian snakeroot is the same as a prescription drug called reserpine. Reserpine is used to treat mild to moderate hypertension, and some symptoms of poor circulation.
The extract is available as a supplement in combination with other herbs that are associated with supporting cardiovascular health. In this way, it is surrounded by other natural substances rather than isolated as a drug.
However, there may be interactions and safety issues with other medications and/or herbals and with other conditions that you would need to consider before using this remedy.
6 – L-Arginine, L-Citrulline have also been show to increase nitric oxide which helps to relax blood vessels. These two amino acids are found in many foods. L-Citrulline is found in meat, fish, eggs and legumes. L-Arginine is found in nuts, brown rice, raisins, coconut, chicken, chocolate and meat. These amino acids are also used by athletes to increase performance.
While there are many other possible remedies for reducing blood pressure, care should be taken to discuss with your personal physician any changes to your treatment plan or diet. Some of these herbal remedies do interact with conditions and other medications. If you are pregnant or nursing many of these remedies may be contraindicated.
Disclaimer: Discuss with your personal physician any change or addition to your diet or treatment plan. With any herbal remedy there is potential for unwanted interaction with medications and/or health conditions. Real Food Forager does not provide medical advice and nothing here should be construed as medical advice.