Nearly have of all U.S. adults have hypertension, which is defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 (the top number) or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 (the bottom number). Having hypertension puts you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, we have several evidence-based therapies to help lower blood pressure.
In research studies, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is an has been shown to lower blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg! The diet is rich in potassium-rich foods and naturally lower in sodium. So what foods make up a DASH diet?
The DASH diet minimizes or eliminates red and processed meats, and reduces the consumption of sweets and added sugars (less than 5 servings per day). You can read more about the DASH diet, find recipe ideas, and grocery shopping tips at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/DASH. You can also consider making an appointment with the Bastyr Center nutrition department for additional support and recommendations about how to start.
Numerous studies have repeatedly identified and direct relationship between alcohol consumption and hypertension. In the U.S., alcohol intake may account for close to 10% of the population burden of hypertension. Women should aim to drink one or fewer servings of alcohol per day and men should aim to drink two or fewer servings of alcohol per day.
Aerobic and resistance exercise have both been shown to help lower your blood pressure. Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week that combines aerobic and resistance exercises. This can be broken into short, ten-minute intervals of movement throughout the day and week. Even exercising for one day per week is better than not exercising at all, so every bit helps your heart! If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, you should consult your doctor to ensure that your heart is healthy enough to engage in physical activity.
These days it is easy to understand why you may be feeling stressed, and unfortunately, stress can elevate your blood pressure. Meditation, biofeedback, breath work, and counseling are all modalities that can help you to become more resilient to stress. Various herbal therapies can also help you adapt to stress. If you have hypertension and are experiencing stress or anxiety, consider making an appointment with the Bastyr Center Naturopathic Medicine department for additional support.
Poor sleep is associated with hypertension and other cardiometabolic diseases. Therefore, getting a solid 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night is essential for maintaining our health and longevity. A condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be an underlying cause of poor sleep quality, daytime fatigue, and hypertension. Therefore, if you experience these symptoms and/or notice that you snore or wake with a headache or dry mouth in the morning, consider scheduling an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle or Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego.
Reference: Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines [published correction appears in Hypertension. 2018 Jun;71(6):e136-e139] [published correction appears in Hypertension. 2018 Sep;72(3):e33]. Hypertension. 2018;71(6):1269-1324. doi:10.1161/HYP.0000000000000066DASH eating plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan. Accessed February 24, 2022.
Written by: Rachel Boone, ND, First Year Resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health