I have a strong family history of hypertension, also known as elevated blood pressure. Because of this, I realize that I have to keep a close eye on my blood pressure. If I gain just 5 pounds, the number on the machine starts to creep up.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is critical for optimal health and wellness. Amazingly, one out of every three Americans has high blood pressure, which is increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Ideal blood pressure is less than or equal to 120 over 80. The Joint National Committee (JNC), which publishes recommendations on how best to manage elevated blood pressure, recommends that the first step to controlling a patient’s blood pressure is adjusting his or her diet and lifestyle.
By following the five steps below, you can lower your blood pressure by 10 points or more!
1. Follow the DASH diet.
This is a whole foods diet that is low in processed foods and sugar and high in fiber and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are the amazing compounds that come from plant foods. I always recommend that people eat eight servings in a rainbow of plant foods every day. Some great plant foods that are rich in phytonutrients include spinach, squash, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, mushrooms, and onions.
2. Improve your sodium:potassium ratio.
We have all heard that too much sodium in your diet can raise your blood pressure. Actually, this is only partly true. First of all, only some of us are salt-sensitive. That means that only some people’s blood pressure will increase if they eat too much salt. Secondly, the more important thing to focus on is the ratio of sodium to potassium in your diet. The standard American diet is both high in sodium and low in potassium. This is the opposite of what we want. Focus on increasing your vegetable and fruit intake, and you will naturally increase your potassium intake. Focus on avoiding processed foods, and you will naturally lower your sodium intake.
3. Lose excessive weight.
For every 5 percent loss of excess weight, you can lower your blood pressure by three points. That means that if you are 40 pounds overweight, and you lose 2 of those pounds, you can expect to see your blood pressure decrease by three points. It's amazing to see how much of a difference 2 pounds can make for some people. Many people don't even need to be at their ideal weight to have normal blood pressure. Focus on taking a few small steps at a time for weight loss, and you'll see amazing results.
4. Move your body.
Add in at least 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times per week and you can lower your blood pressure by two five points. Most people don't get enough movement or activity daily. Working on this can produce a ton of other health benefits on top of lowering your blood pressure.
5. Breathe—and engage your diaphragm.
Harvard physician Herbert Benson was the first physician to popularize the mind-body connection and show that 15 minutes of deep breathing daily can lower a person’s blood pressure. He developed the RESPeRATE, a device to guide a person to engage their diaphragm through slow deep breaths that is FDA-approved to lower blood pressure. Breathwork can calm the body, improve our well-being, and lower blood pressure. Incorporate 15 minutes into your daily routine and you won't be disappointed!
Struggling with weight-loss resistance? This could be why.