The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued new guidelines for blood pressure. With these new guidelines, it is estimated that the amount of people now having elevated, or high blood pressure (hypertension stage 1) will increase from 73 million to 103 million.
With these new guidelines in place, what can you do to decrease your risk? The answers are to change your diet, and increase exercise. According to the AHA, the new guidelines include any blood pressure reading that is 120/80 or higher. 120/80 is now being classified as elevated blood pressure, and should be monitored by health care professionals, and taken seriously.
What can you do is you happen to fall into the AHA’s new definition of high blood pressure, or elevated blood pressure? Sometimes, the first steps begin with modifying your diet. The Mediterranean diet, which consists of extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, beans and dark, leafy greens as well as red wine, can help in lowering body fat and getting your blood pressure under control. Nuts in particular can satisfy that snack craze— especially almonds, cashews, walnuts and peanuts. Almonds provide a nice protein boost during the day.
Avoid Salt, and Use Spices Instead!
A recent study touted the benefits of spice over salt— and it tricks your brain into thinking you are ingesting salt. Spices are very healthy and will offer a great alternative to salt. Salt and high blood pressure just doesn’t mix— so try and avoid it— and use a favorite spice.
A recent study done at MIT shows that the healthier the gut microbiota, the better it is at defending against the negative effects of a high-salt diet. Some researchers are developing probiotic pills to help alter the state of gut microbiota. It is this belief that such changes could help guard against the effects of high salt and high blood pressure. One study analyzed 12 human subjects for two weeks, who were fed a diet consisting of 6,000 milligrams of salt daily. Prior to that, the subjects ingested a probiotic pill every day for one week. Researchers were able to discover that the positive effects of the probiotic pill guarded against the harmful effects of the high-salt diet. While these results are good news for the future, one of the best ways to safeguard against high blood pressure is to exercise.
Starting a cardio and resistance exercise program, with gradual increases to your resistance as exercise becomes easier, is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure. To lower blood pressure, do resistance training first and then cardio. Resistance training alone can cause vascular resistance and raise blood pressure. Cardio can offset that! Then jump into the sauna, post exercise. Sitting in the sauna for 10-20 minutes at a time can increase vasodilation and reduce stress.
Before beginning any exercise program, speak to your doctor about where you should start. Not all exercise can be beneficial— so don’t go from sitting on your couch five nights a week to going to a high-intensity interval spinning class, or try to bench press 200 pounds in one sitting!
Here’s what we recommend for lowering blood pressure:
• Mediterranean diet/DASH Diet
• Consuming whey protein, which contains ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors), which can lower blood pressure
• Potassium-enriched foods— i.e., sweet potatoes, avocado, oranges, spinach
• Magnesium-enriched foods/supplements— i.e., almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
• Citrulline and nitrate-containing foods/supplements— i.e., watermelon, beets, spinach and arugula
The key to changing your diet is moderation. It’s going to take some stick-to-it-tive-ness on your part to make the change, but once you do— changes can be rewarding. If you are diagnosed with having high blood pressure, these few changes can help you immensely in the long run. Plus, if you are a big snack-eater, some of these healthier alternatives like unsalted nuts will satisfy your snack craze. With just these few simple changes, you too can be heart healthy and health conscious.
Gut microbes can protect against high blood pressure: Strain of intestinal bacteria can stop a high-salt diet from inducing inflammatory response linked to hypertension. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2017.
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings, American Heart Association.