Dear Dr. Mo: My blood pressure has recently been slightly elevated. Are there some ways to control it with a healthy diet before I turn to meds?
Dear reader: The so called ‘high normal’ blood pressure (130-139/85-89 mmHg) and even sometimes Stage I hypertension (140-159/90-99 mmHg) can actually be alleviated and managed with mostly life-style changes like salt restriction, proper hydration, quitting smoking, exercise and of course diet adjustments. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t take the meds prescribed by your doctor – do take them by all means as these are usually necessary to act as short-term blood pressure regulators. (In some cases, meds are constantly required).
Your life-style can in the long run reduce or even eliminate the reliance on medication to control the blood pressure. You’ll discuss this with your doctor based on your blood pressure values.
Speaking of short-term regulators and your question, there are natural products you can add to your daily diet to help your body bring the blood pressure down.
In their latest study, published online April 15, 2013 in Hypertension, Dr. Amrita Ahluwalia (Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK) and colleagues have shown that drinking Beetroot juice or eating fresh Beetroot daily, reduces blood pressure by as much as 10mmHg for up to 24 hours, peaking within the first 6 hours.
Further studies will look into Beet’s effects in longer-term regulation but for now it would seem that it definitely helps in quick-fix situations and that its effects have more potency in hypertensive individuals than in those with normal blood pressure.
Beets do this because of their nitrate content which our bodies finally metabolize into nitric oxide, a gas that expands blood vessels, which reduces drag, improves blood flow and consequently reduces blood pressure.
Not only Beets have this effect – most leafy greens do and Kale was found to have even higher nitrate content than Beetroot.
This is all good news because vegetables should be a part of any healthy diet and by eating them regularly, we may help our bodies regulate blood pressure. At every lunch and dinner at least half of your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruits – use this as a simple gage of how healthy your meal is.
Please remember: High and uncontrolled blood pressure is directly responsible for at least 50% of all heart attacks and an even greater number of strokes. Make sure to control it regularly and to speak to your doctor about possible treatment options that might work for you.
Eating healthy is most certainly one big step towards your overall health and a well controlled blood pressure.
Yours in health,
For further reading:
Ahluwalia A, Ghosh S, Kapil V, et al. Enhanced vasodilator activity of nitrite in hypertension: Critical role for erythrocytic xanthine oxidoreductase and translational potential. Hypertension 2013; DOI:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.00933. Available at: http://hyper.ahajournals.org