High Blood Pressure – Looking Beyond Medications
After assessing for secondary causes, the next step of management (and prevention!) is lifestyle adjustment. As we know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so enjoying and maintaining healthy habits is the best way to mitigate your risk. Nutrition is the fuel for the body and the most important place to start.
A diet full of catechins can help decease blood pressure. There is some truth the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Apples, pears, blackberries, cherries, sweet or purple potatoes, green tea and dark chocolate (yay!) are all high in catechins. These phytochemicals regulate messengers in your body (NADPH, IL-6 and MMP-9 ) that can directly lower blood pressure. Further, these catechins have been shown to improve the health of your blood vessels and prevent thickening and hardening of the blood vessel wall that contributes to high blood pressure. These wonderful plant nutrients also decrease cholesterol and inflammation. The power of catechins is real – there have been studies showing systolic blood pressure drop of up to 11 points. When making dietary choices, it is important to incorporate these foods into your diet every day to have a substantial impact. Think of these plant foods as medicine. If you were on a prescription medication for high blood pressure, you would certainly take it daily!
Movement is the next mainstay of lifestyle intervention for high blood pressure. Aim for blocks of 20-40 minutes, totaling 150 minutes weekly. Exercise such as walking, biking, swimming and other cardio type exercise has been proven to lower systolic blood pressure by 5-7 points. Habits can be difficult to initiate, so find an activity you can enjoy doing. Walks are simple and quite meditative. Paddleboarding, playing a group sport, and treading water are all ways to “exercise” that can be more enjoyable for those who dislike the gym or traditional exercise settings. The long-term benefits of movement on physical and mental health are too great to pass up.
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