Published March 25, 2014
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a prevalent condition among American adults. Hypertension occurs when blood pressure remains elevated, changing the structure and function of the blood vessels. It is estimated that about 67 million Americans have elevated blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hypertension wreaks havoc on the vital organs of the body and can cause a variety of side effects, from blindness to kidney disease. Since it can also damage the arteries in the brain, hypertension also happens to one of the most common causes of stroke in the United States.
According to the American Heart Association, there is no one identifiable cause of hypertension – it is usually caused by a combination of factors. These include, among others: excess weight, low activity levels, tobacco use, stress, hormonal disorders or family history.
Since hypertension is a disease primarily caused by lifestyle choices, positive changes can help bring those high numbers under control.
Certain foods have been shown to reduce hypertension and adding them to your daily diet can reap enormous benefits over time. A study by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia found that blood pressure was significantly reduced in otherwise healthy individuals by drinking 16 ounces of fresh beet juice a day. This may be because beets contain natural nitrates, which can improve vasodilation, decreasing blood pressure.
Celery contains phytochemicals called phthalides, which clinical studies have shown relax muscle tissue in the artery walls, leading to increased blood flow and reduced blood pressure.
And taking a daily dose of at least 10 milligrams of allicin, a compound found in garlic, decreased blood pressure over a three month period in one double-blind study. To get enough allicin naturally, include one to four cloves of fresh, uncooked, garlic in your daily diet.
It is estimated that over 80 percent of doctor’s visits are directly or indirectly related to the effects of stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. Chronic stress plays a role in hypertension and taking steps to deliberately calm the nervous system can have a positive effect on mind, body and overall wellbeing.
Book some time on your weekly calendar for activities that help you relax to ensure you make it a priority. Throughout the day, if you feel yourself becoming stressed or anxious, try taking deep, calming breaths with your eyes closed, focusing on nothing but your breath. Repeating positive affirmations or mantras throughout the day sends a signal to your body to slow down and relax, so think happy thoughts, especially during times of stress.
Drinking tea regularly may also help reduce blood pressure. While some caffeinated teas may raise blood pressure in the short term there are several that have been found to be effective in reducing hypertension over time. Some herbal teas can have a negative interaction with prescription medication so always check with your doctor if you are currently being treated with any medication.
Hibiscus tea is rich in flavonoids, minerals and other nutrients, and several studies have shown the beverage may help reduce blood pressure in pre-and-mildly hypertensive adults. Another study showed that drinking one-half to two cups of oolong or green tea daily could cut a persons risk of hypertension by up to 46 percent.
Three cups of black tea daily for six months lead to a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by two to three mm Hg, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Along with a regular strength training routine and a diet low in refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods, these simple strategies can easily help reduce hypertension. The most important part of implementing these lifestyle changes is to be consistent and patient since it may take up to three months of daily implementation to notice changes. Monitor blood pressure regularly with your primary care doctor so any changes can be quickly addressed.