Dietary and Lifestyle Strategies for Managing High Blood Pressure

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of dietary and lifestyle interventions for high blood pressure

“What are your recommended healthy foods/supplements/treatments for high blood pressure? Thank you so much.”

The first step is figuring out why your blood pressure is elevated to begin with. This is super important because the solution may not require changes to your diet or the use of drugs. Some of the most common causes of elevated blood pressure are smoking, obesity, type 2 diabetes, sedentariness, alcohol, and stress. If you focus on resolving these problems, then blood pressure will take care of itself.

Still, there is something called idiopathic hypertension where the cause of elevated blood pressure isn’t known. In these cases, as well as in cases where you just want to ensure robust cardiovascular health in general, there are several easy diet and lifestyle modifications you can make.

First, eat more foods with nitrates in them, like beets, arugula, and celery. These foods will help increase nitric oxide levels within the body, which relaxes blood vessels and helps them expand as needed, thereby reducing the pressure your blood places on them (blood pressure).

Another easy but incredibly beneficial change is to increase your potassium intake. Conventional wisdom likes to demonize sodium, but the reality is that there isn’t any research showing that sodium negatively impacts blood pressure independent of potassium. It’s the ratio that seems to be the driver. I like seeing potassium intake of at least 6 grams per day, putting it in a 1-2 to 1 ratio with sodium.

The last one I’ll mention is garlic, which can lower blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax and preventing the release of angiotensin by the kidneys, which functions to directly increase blood pressure.

From a big picture standpoint, you also want to ensure you have healthy insulin levels, which is typically below 10 uU/mL, but ideally between 3 and 6 uU/mL. Elevated insulin and the associated insulin resistance cause the body to retain sodium, which increases blood volume and blood pressure. It also causes the blood vessels to become less elastic. This doesn’t mean you need to eat a low-carbohydrate diet, as fasting insulin is mostly related to one’s body composition. Just stay lean and active.

Finally, endurance exercise can help lower blood pressure, as can using a sauna and getting ample sun exposure regularly. Both exercise and sauna challenge the cardiovascular system to make it healthier and elastic, thereby reducing blood pressure over time. Sun exposure, on the other hand, has an immediate beneficial effect by stimulating the production of nitric oxide within the skin, which then travels through blood vessels to help them relax.

Hope that helps

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