High blood pressure can be the cause of serious health implications, but what is high blood pressure and how can we treat it?
Three out of 10 adults in the UK have it, and the risk of developing high blood pressure heightens as we age. Certain factors are known to increase the risk, including an unhealthy diet, smoking and family history.
Find out more about what high blood pressure is, what causes it, and natural approaches that may help treat and prevent it.
What is high blood pressure?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood to the rest of your body through the arteries. The force of blood against the artery walls is what we call blood pressure.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious condition that can affect anybody. It’s diagnosed when pressure readings are consistently 140 over 90 (or higher), over the course of several weeks.
What causes high blood pressure?
In many cases, there is no obvious cause of high blood pressure. However, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of high blood pressure, such as pregnancy, stress, obesity and drinking a lot of alcohol.
High blood pressure symptoms
In most occasions, there are no signs or symptoms of having high blood pressure, and patients can only be diagnosed by having their blood pressure checked by a medical professional.
Rarely, extremely high blood pressure can cause some physical symptoms. These can include severe headaches, blurred vision, seizures, chest pain, feeling short of breath, nausea and heavy sweating. If this happens, seek medical care immediately.
How to lower blood pressure naturally
There are many natural ways to lower blood pressure. If you want to reduce the risk of high blood pressure or work on lowering it, these methods can help:
Exercise regularly: Being active can help keep blood pressure down. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. If you work in an office, try and take regular walking breaks during the day so you aren’t sitting for too long.
Drink less alcohol: A study by Puddey and Beillin (scholars in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia) discovered that alcohol is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world. Take note of how much you’re drinking and if it’s over the recommended amount (14 units a week), take measures to drink less.
Stop smoking: High tobacco intake causes our blood vessels to narrow, increasing the pressure blood puts on our arteries. Smoking also reduces the amount of blood oxygen. To keep the oxygen levels healthy, our hearts beat faster, also causing an increase in blood pressure.
Maintain a healthy weight: Losing just a few pounds can help lower blood pressure. Sleeping well, exercising and eating the correct foods can achieve a healthy body weight. Speak to your GP about your body weight goals and how to accomplish them.
Cut added sugar out of your diet: Eating less sugar is a sure way to lose some pounds and protect your teeth. Furthermore, some studies have shown that it can also lower blood pressure. In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, for example, women who drank just one soda (fizzy drink) per day had higher blood sugar levels than those who didn’t.
Eat more potassium: Potassium is important as it helps your body get rid of sodium (salt) and relives pressure on your blood vessels. To increase potassium levels, try to reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet and stick to fresh, whole foods. Fruit and vegetables like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and avocados are all rich in potassium. Chaga mushrooms are another excellent source.
Drink Chaga mushroom tea: The Chaga mushroom has been used for centuries in Siberia to help boost immune systems and aid a healthy lifestyle. As Chaga tea contains plenty of antioxidants, consumers have said that the benefits include lowering blood pressure, providing energy and treating serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Learn more about Chaga and how it has the potential to change your life.
Eat small amounts of dark chocolate: Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are both high in flavonoids – plant compounds that cause blood vessels to widen and relax. For the best results, choose non-alkalised cocoa powder as it is especially high in flavonoids and doesn’t contain any added sugar.
Manage stress: Chronic stress is one of the main factors of high blood pressure, causing faster heart rates and constricted blood vessels. It also means you might be more likely to eat unhealthily, smoke or drink alcohol. If you’re feeling stressed, speak to somebody to try and ease it. Meditation, calm music and exercise also help.
Eat a calcium-rich diet: High blood pressure is often linked to low calcium intake, whilst healthy blood levels are linked to a high calcium intake. There are lots of plant-based sources of calcium, including green vegetables, beans and tofu.
- Puddey, Beilin, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & physiology, 2006 Sep;33(9):847-52