Blood pressure is measured by two types of blood activity: the pressure of the pulses of blood in your veins (systolic) and the pressure between pulses (diastolic). Experts now believe that there is not a single normal blood pressure for everyone, but that “normal” may vary depending on the person. The values considered safe and normal for most people, however, ranges from 90/60 to 139/89. If you are on the high side of this range, it’s time to take notice and keep an eye on your blood pressure health.
Hypertension generally has few symptoms except a tendency of shortness of breath after mild exertion. The causes of hypertension are much more recognized as signs of health issues: nervous stress, excess weight, and bad eating habits. Hypertension can develop into heart and kidney failure, and even brain damage. And as we all know, high blood pressure puts a person at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and blindness.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is commonly associated with aging because we normally see the arteries begin to stiffen after around age 60. This causes the lower of the two numbers to go up. But not all sexagenarians show these signs.
Other causes of high blood pressure include high stress levels, smoking, and coffee drinking. Smoking and coffee are both stimulants, which raise blood pressure, and stress increases nervous tension, which can cause hypertension. Excess weight can exacerbate the problem by putting more pressure on the heart. A diet of starchy or sugary foods also increases blood pressure, as do saturated and trans fats. All of these causes are related to the same basic factor: putting more pressure on the heart to beat faster and/or harder to get the same amount of oxygen to the blood.
You can do many things to lower your blood pressure. Most of them include lifestyle and diet choices. Here are basic changes that can help lower blood pressure:
- Stop smoking.
- Lower stress and eliminate caffeine.
- Lose weight and exercise more (when beginning an exercise program, start slowly and increase gradually).
- Decrease sodium and increase potassium.
- Eat less sugar and fewer starches (you’ll get thinner too!).
- Eat foods that help regulate blood pressure, including pure cocoa (or dark, bittersweet chocolate), raw garlic, and raw onion. Also eat plenty of potassiumrich foods, like bananas, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, asparagus, and prune juice. Include plenty of sesame oil in your diet, as this oil has been found to dramatically lower hypertension.
Herbal teas and asparagus supplements are excellent natural diuretics and hypotensives (lower blood pressure). Seaweed and kelp also can help reduce high blood pressure, as can hawthorn berries or hawthorn extract. Too little vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, or calcium in your diet can raise your blood pressure, so be sure to take them in supplement form if your diet tends to lack these important vitamins and minerals.
Hot baths and saunas can help reduce stress and induce sweating that can eliminate toxins from the system. Practices such as meditation and yoga are also excellent for reducing stress and blood pressure.