Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, makes us more susceptible to coronary heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. People who are overweight and do not get much exercise are at much higher risk of having high blood pressure.
Blood pressure can be treated without drugs (always see your doctor first) if a person is willing to change their lifestyle and diet. In societies where salt is limited, hypertension is rare. Too much caffeine, alcohol and smoking when combined with high blood pressure can greatly increase the chances of suffering heart disease or stroke.
Stress is a major factor in hypertension. Chemicals such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released into the bloodstream, increasing heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response and in the Stone Age when the hunter had to run quickly to get out of danger, the adrenaline gave him the energy to do this. It also causes the blood to thicken and clot more quickly to help with any injuries he might incur. We don’t face the same sort of dangers as Stone Age man, but our stressful lifestyles, stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and smoking cause our bodies to react in the same way, resulting in not only hypertension but a number of other degenerative diseases including coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
High blood pressure is closely related to lifestyle and dietary factors. Some of the dietary factors include obesity, high-sugar diet, high saturated-fat and low essential fatty acid intake, and a diet low in magnesium, calcium and vitamin C.
Foods to Avoid
- Remove completely sodium-based salt as there appears to be a clear link between the use of salt and hypertension. Be aware that takeaway meals, shop-bought biscuits and pies, meals you eat out and any processed food are often high in salt. Use a potassium or magnesium-based salt such as Solo (available from health food shops).
- Eat grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats. Good sources of B vitamins needed for immune system and used up by stress.
- Blood pressure has been known to drop by up to 20 points when all caffeine was eliminated (caffeine is found in chocolate as well as tea and coffee).
- If substituting with decaffeinated coffee, use an organic brand that has been decaffeinated naturally (non-organic decaffeinated drinks use chemicals which further add the toxic load of the body).
- Sugar is also a problem as it turns to hard fat in the body if not used up during exercise.
- If all of the above have been eliminated and there is still a tendency towards high blood pressure, an allergy or food intolerance should be considered, especially if there is also a migraine problem.
- People who are exposed to toxic metals such as lead, which can be found in drinking water, often have raised blood pressure. Buying a good quality water filter is a good idea.
Foods to Add
- Potassium is needed to help lower blood pressure. It is important to consult a doctor if a potassium diuretic has been prescribed before consuming more fruit than normal, or when making any changes to your diet.
- Bananas are a good source of potassium.
- Use Solo salt substitute, which is potassium and not sodium-based.
- Green vegetables, fresh fruit, unsalted nuts and seeds, seafood, soya flour, butterbeans, currants, dried figs and apricots, almonds, brazil nuts, black treacle and sunflower seeds are all rich in potassium.
- Freshly made fruit and vegetable juices are a good way of getting the minimum five portions a day we all need, as well as containing vitamin C. Pectin found in apples aids in reducing blood pressure.
- Try switching to a more vegetarian-based diet. As a general rule, long-term vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure.
- Eat more onions, garlic, broccoli and celery, found to be effective in lowering blood pressure.
- Use unrefined organic virgin olive oil, walnut and flax seed oils for salad dressings and eat oily fish. These are unsaturated fats and have been found to be very effective in lowering blood pressure, particulary omega 3, found in oily fish, walnuts and linseeds.
- Coriander can help to detoxify toxic metals from the body.
- Natural source vitamin E helps to thin the blood naturally, therefore eat more soya beans, wheat germ, dark green vegetables, alfalfa sprouts, hazelnuts, almonds and avocados. (Always consult your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medication before supplementing with vitamin E).
- Calcium and magnesium have been shown to lower blood pressure (consult a nutritional therapist for dosage). Nuts and seeds are good sources of both.
- Co-enzyme Q10 is found in organ meats and as we age levels fall. It may help reduce hypertension, having a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels and its ability to stabilise vascular membranes through its antioxidant qualities.
- Jiaogulan is a herb that may help to modulate blood pressure, lowering it when it is to high and raising it when it is too low.
- Include a good quality multivitamin/mineral complex as the B vitamins help to support the immune and nervous systems.
- Liver congestion and constipation can aggravate high blood pressure.
- Try to find a method of relaxation that is enjoyable, such as meditation, tai chi, yoga, exercising, walking or swimming.
- Have a regular aromatherapy massage using rosewood, ylang ylang, clary sage and marjorum oils.
- Cayenne pepper has been found to be anti-hypertensive; try using one teaspoon in daily cooking (do not use if suffering from stomach ulcers).
- Exercise is vital in controlling this condition. With a doctor’s permission, start walking briskly for 30 minutes a day.
- Rosemary and nettle tea sipped regularly can help lower blood pressure.
- Try and get sufficient sleep.
Balch & Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing Avery 1997
Murray M & Pizzorno J, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Revised 2nd Edition Prima Publising 1998