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Lower blood pressure can be achieved, in some cases, by making simple dietary and lifestyle changes. In other cases, medication is required but must be complemented by appropriate diet and lifestyle practices.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is an epidemic, affecting millions of people worldwide. It is referred to a silent killer because it exhibits little to no symptoms but can be extremely deadly.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney disease. It is also responsible for many cases of heart disease, strokes and other medical complications.
In order to minimize the harmful effects of hypertension, it is extremely important for patients to take urgent action to reduce blood pressure.
Some patients require medication, in addition to adjustments to their diet and lifestyle practices, in order to effectively decrease blood pressure. Medication may be especially necessary when the cause of high blood pressure is unknown (essential hypertension).
In some cases, hypertension is caused by another underlying condition such as kidney disease, obesity, Atherosclerosis, Hyperthyroidism and Cushing syndrome. When another medical condition causes hypertension, this is known as secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is corrected by treating the underlying cause or causes.
Essential (primary) hypertension is a bit more difficult to treat but some patients have reported remarkable results by simply exercising regularly, reducing their stress level and adjusting their diet. In some cases it is possible to lower blood pressure with certain vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals.
Minerals play a vital part in many metabolic processes. Some have antioxidant effects while others are necessary for the function of vitamins, hormones, and enzymes. The importance of minerals has been increasingly recognized in recent years although their role is less known than that of vitamins. Minerals required by the human body include potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, and sodium. The following minerals have been known to help decrease blood pressure.
Potassium is the third most abundant element in the body with most of it residing inside the body's cells. It has several duties in the body, including helping the muscles and nervous system work properly. It also works with sodium and chloride to distribute fluids properly throughout the body.
Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that blood pressure falls when dietary potassium is increased. A high potassium intake reduces the blood pressure most effectively in people who are consuming large amounts of sodium, or have salt-sensitive hypertension. This is because of the link between potassium and sodium. The two work in opposition to each other, within the body. This means that these two minerals must be balanced in the body, in order to lower blood pressure. Too much sodium compared to potassium can cause hypertension, while too little sodium compared to potassium can cause low blood pressure.
The average Western diet has a potassium-to-sodium ratio of 1:3. That is, for each unit of potassium consumed, three units of sodium are consumed. The ratio should be the other way around. For persons who suffer with hypertension, supplementing with 2,400 to 4,800 mg of potassium per day can lead to lower blood pressure. The amount of potassium supplement required by each individual depends on the amount they get form their food.
Persons who consume foods that are high in potassium may not need as much as 4,800 mg.
Potassium is found in a number of foods including green leafy vegetables, nuts, papayas, dates, bananas, cantaloupes, guavas, and oranges. Hypertensive patients who are not consuming enough of these foods should consider taking a potassium supplement.
Calcium is present in significant amounts in the human body and is almost entirely concentrated in the bones and teeth. Calcium is vital for the growth and maintenance of muscle contraction, and the function of certain enzyme systems. Additionally, calcium helps to keep the heart beating regularly.
Researchers noted that people who consume more calcium in their diet, were more likely to have lower blood pressure than those who consume less calcium. In fact, people who consume greater than 800mg of calcium per day have a 23% lower risk of developing hypertension, compared to those consuming less than 400mg per day. It was found that calcium supplements were more effective in lowering blood pressure in certain groups of persons with hypertension, namely persons of African descent, the elderly, pregnant women, people with salt sensitive hypertension, and those with Type II diabetes.
Hypertensive patients should consider increasing their intake of calcium-containing foods. Foods rich in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, canned salmon or sardines with bones, almonds, cantaloupes, and broccoli. Now, please choose your food wisely... be careful of the salt content in canned foods (read the labels) and if you have kidney problems, use dairy products in moderation. Those who are not able to get enough calcium from their foods should consider using a good calcium supplement. A calcium intake of 1,000mg to 1,500mg per day should be adequate.
The body uses magnesium to manufacture protein and to also convert protein, fat, and carbohydrates into energy. It also helps to detoxify the body and keep the blood from clotting unnecessarily. Magnesium also helps to regulate the amount of sodium, calcium, and potassium found within the cells.
Many studies show that when more magnesium is consumed in the form of food, it helps to lower blood pressure. Magnesium can be found in a number of foods, including peas, beans, whole grain breads, avocados, dry-roasted almonds, lima beans, dark green vegetables, nuts, and seafood. Magnesium supplements can also be beneficial.
Studies show that a magnesium supplement of 500mg per day can significantly lower blood pressure.
Vitamins are a group of organic substances that are required in our diet to maintain good health. They are involved in a large number of metabolic processes, including the growth and repair of tissues and organs, utilization of food and the functioning of the immune, nervous, circulatory and hormonal systems.
The following are some vitamins that have been known to help reduce blood pressure.
Vitamin D is sometimes called the "sunshine vitamin" because it can be manufactured in the skin when the body is exposed to sunlight. It is necessary for healthy bones, muscles, and cells. It also helps the body to absorb and use phosphorus and calcium.
Some studies show that when the amount of vitamin D in the body is too low, the blood pressure rises... and so does the LDL ("bad") cholesterol. It affects the body's ability to clear fat from the blood, following a fatty meal.
Caution: The body tends to hang on to vitamin D since it is stored in fat tissue, so don't take more than the recommended amount without consulting your physician. People with normal exposure to the sun manufacture enough storable vitamin D, in addition to that obtained from foods. In high doses, vitamin D can have toxic effects.
If you believe you have a vitamin D deficiency but you are not sure if to take a supplement, consult your doctor. In any event, you should not consume more than 400 IU per day (including that received from sunlight and food).
Good dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish, eggs, fortified milk, cod liver oil, and breakfast cereals.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the maintenance of cell walls and connective tissue. It is, therefore, essential for the health of blood vessels, skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and all the body's lining surfaces. It promotes the uptake and absorption of iron and is crucially involved in effective operation of the immune system. It also helps to fight off certain types of cancer.
The ability of vitamin C to lower blood pressure is further enhanced when it is combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, or selenium.
A vitamin C supplement of 250 to 500 mg twice a day should be adequate for most people. The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables, including papayas, guavas, red peppers, cantaloupes, black currants, green peppers, oranges, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus.
Studies have shown that low levels of B6 in the blood are linked to hypertension. Taking vitamin B6 supplements can help to lower blood pressure by almost 10% in some cases. That's because vitamin B6 has multiple anti-hypertensive effects that are similar to diuretics.
Vitamin B6 helps the body extract energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is also necessary for the production of hemoglobin, neurotransmitters, and hormones. It helps to convert amino acids into carbohydrates and may also help relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and certain mood disorders.
Vitamin B6 can be found in avocados, beef liver, bananas, chicken, smoked salmon, red snapper, wheat germ, corn, and yogurt. A daily intake of 100 to 200 mg should be adequate.
Vitamin E is another vitamin that has been known to help lower blood pressure. Studies show that some persons with hypertension have significantly lower levels of vitamin E in their plasma and cells, compared to persons with normal blood pressure. Vitamin E helps to protect the vascular system and other organs that are typically harmed by elevated blood pressure. It is also a powerful antioxidant.
Vitamin E is found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, liver, butter, and egg yolk. A daily supplement of 400 to 800 IU should be adequate for the needs of the body.
Nutraceuticals are components of foods or dietary supplements that have medicinal or therapeutic uses. The following are some of the common, yet potent, nutraceuticals that help to reduce high blood pressure.
Several studies have linked a high protein intake to a reduction in blood pressure... but the type of protein is important.
Animal protein is less effective than non-animal protein. This is especially important for persons who have kidney problems. Vegetable protein, soy, beans, and whey protein are best. A good alternative is protein in the form of meat from lean or wild animals, such as range-fed cattle. The positive effects of protein on blood pressure are mainly due to its ability to excrete sodium from the body, via urine.
As a guide, daily protein intake should be 1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, if your weight is 150 pounds, a reasonable daily protein intake works out to approximately 68 to 82 grams. Another way to look at this is: Protein should account for 30% of total calories consumed on a daily basis. Remember that non-animal protein is better.
Omega-3 fatty acids are probably the best kind of fat that can help to reduce blood pressure and improve overall health. The best source of omega-3 is fish (or fish oil) but other non-fish sources include green soybeans, butternuts, green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
Other benefits of omega 3s include:
The protective effect of omega-3s has been documented in many studies. A daily intake of 3 to 4 grams of omega-3 should be adequate.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids such as omega-9 fatty acid, and contains some polyunsaturated fatty acids as well. Monounsaturated fatty acids help to keep the arteries dilated, help combat the ill effects of oxidation, and improve the function of the vascular system.
An average of 4 table-spoons of extra virgin olive oil per day is recommended.
Celery contains a substance called apigenin, which among other things, helps to lower blood pressure. It also acts like a diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess fluid, thereby, helping to reduce high blood pressure.
A daily consumption of 3 to 4 celery stalks per day can be beneficial (juicing is recommended). Alternatively, 8 teaspoons of celery juice 3 times a day, 1,000 mg of celery seed extract twice a day, or 1 teaspoon of celery oil 3 times a day can also be beneficial to health.
Garlic has been used as a health aid for a very long time. More recently, garlic has gained recognition for its ability to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. It contains several substances that allow it to help the body keep the arteries dilated, thus reducing vascular resistance and blood pressure.
A daily intake of 4 cloves or 4 grams of garlic is recommended. Alternatively, a good garlic supplement can be just as beneficial.
Fiber is known for its ability to lower cholesterol and improve bowel function, but it can also help to lower blood pressure. Fiber fights hypertension by improving vascular function, helps the body to excrete sodium, improve insulin sensitivity, and decreases the sympathetic nervous system activity that can increase blood pressure.
A daily intake of 60 grams of oatmeal, or 40 grams of oat bran can provide sufficient fiber for the body.
The above list of minerals, vitamins and nutraceuticals is not exhaustive, but they all possess properties that have been known to help lower high blood pressure.
Hypertensive patients should consult their health care provider to help determine their best course of treatment. It is also important for them to monitor their blood pressure regularly.
There is no single best way to combat hypertension... it must be attacked on several fronts at once. Even patients who use prescription medicines should ensure that their diet contains the appropriate mix of nutrients that can help to naturally reduce high blood pressure. Regular exercise, adequate rest and reduced stress levels are also important elements that help to lower blood pressure naturally.