Monday, September 16, 2013

Blood Pressure: How to Treat Hypertension Naturally

High blood pressure affects more than 65 million Americans, but there are natural approaches to lowering yours.

People stretch in grassy field

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects more than 65 million Americans. The many factors associated with hypertension include smoking, stress, physical inactivity, diabetes, ethnicity, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption.  Hypertension predisposes people to serious diseases including strokes, heart attacks, heart disease and kidney. 

The good news is that there are natural ways to treat hypertension.

Weight

One of the best things that you can do to lower your blood pressure is lose weight.  Losing ten pounds of weight can make a big difference.  In general, the more weight you lose, the better your blood pressure will be.   Talk to your doctor to understand what your ideal weight should be. 

Exercise

Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure as much as 10 points.  The current recommendations for physical activity suggest 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise five to six days per week.  If you haven’t been active recently, start slowly and build up to this amount of exercise.  Your doctor can work with you to design an activity plan that will work for you.

Diet

There are many ways to change your diet to reduce your blood pressure.  The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet is one approach to help decrease blood pressure.  Following this diet can reduce blood pressure by 14 points.   This diet is high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains and low in dairy and saturated fat. 
Decreasing your salt intake can also be helpful for some people.  It can lower blood pressure as much as to 8 points.  Salt should be limited to 2,300 milligrams per day.  However, some people may need to reduce this further, to 1,500 mg per day.  Decreasing the amount of caffeine you drink can also help lower blood pressure.  Caffeine has been shown to temporarily increase your blood pressure. The long term effects of caffeine on blood pressure are unknown.

Quitting Bad Habits

Smoking, alcohol and stress also can contribute to hypertension.  There are many good reasons to quit smoking — lowering your blood pressure is just one of them.  Alcohol can also increase your blood pressure.  Women should limit daily alcohol to one drink a day and men should limit alcohol to two drinks, or one drink for those older than 65.   Stress can also play a big role in increasing your blood pressure.  Take some time to determine your stressors and if there is anything you can do to change them.  Consider things like exercise, yoga, massage, breathing exercises and meditation to help manage your stress.

Emergencies

If you have high blood pressure and experience any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Chest pain that may or may not radiate to jaw, neck, stomach, back or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating or passing out
  • Numbness or weakness in face, arms or legs
  • Changes in vision
  • Changes in balance
  • Changes in the ability to speak

If these suggestions are not enough to control your blood pressure, there are many nutrients, botanical medicines and pharmaceutical medications that can help.  Talk to your doctor to find the right combination for you.
— By Emily Palmer, ND, LMP, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

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