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What Contributes to High Blood Pressure (and What Prevents It)

"High blood pressure is the #1 leading cause of death relating to heart disease."

A shocking 40% of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure! Find out why in today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist. Understanding this serious, yet highly preventable, condition is part 2 of Dr. Nancy’s special5-Part Prevention Series. Learn about the latest research on high blood pressure, including Dr. Nancy’s top natural ways to help lower blood pressure, in today’s live show!

Video Highlights

  • 03:50:Introduction
  • 05:58:What the Blood Pressure numbers mean
  • 09:04:Blood Pressure and Age
  • 10:25:How Serious is High Blood Pressure?
  • 11:42:Speaking of sodium…
  • 18:19:Reading Labels
  • 21:38:What to do if you have high blood pressure
  • 22:37:Top Natural Tips to Prevent High Blood Pressure
  • 41:44:Wrap-Up

Some of the information you’ll learn today may shock you... and hopefully it will be a wake-up call too. For example, the powerful connection between blood pressure and the amount of salt you eat, along with other everyday things you could be unknowingly doing that are contributing to your high blood pressure. Let’s start with some…

What the Blood Pressure numbers mean

Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80. A healthy blood pressure reading should be anything under 120 (systolic) and anything under 80 (diastolic). High blood pressure, which is also known ashypertension, isanything over 130/80.  

Let’s also take a moment to talk about whatsystolic anddiastolic mean. You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around when it comes to talking about blood pressure. Here’s what they mean, and why you should care:

  • Systolic, that number on the top of a blood pressure reading, is the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts. 
  • Diastolic, the number on the bottom, is the measurement of your blood pressure in between heartbeats.

That 130/80 that is considered the acceptable threshold used to be higher — 140/90, to be exact. The reason for the change was to try and reduce the millions of heart-related events and deaths, as well as strokes stemming from high blood pressure every year. By lowering the hypertension threshold, it became easier to spot signs associated with high blood pressure and therefore treat it and hopefully, greatly reduce the number of hypertension-related deaths overall. 

Blood Pressure and Age

Another interesting fact is that the high blood pressure threshold is no longer associated witha particular age. Prior to 2017, the threshold for adults under age 65 was set at that 140/90 number, and for adults over 65, the threshold was 150/80. Now, it doesn’t matter what age you are. As soon as your blood pressure creeps above 120/80 your doctor is going to red flag it. It’s not something you want to be complacent about; if that happens, you’re going to have to get that blood pressure back down and not allow it to creep any higher. 

How Serious is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure isthe#1 leading cause of death relating to heart disease. So if you are one of those people who is even remotely at risk of achieving a blood pressure reading highter than 120/80, here’s what we recommend you do 

  • Work with your primary care physician
  • Become an avid label reader
  • Avoid sodium – especially when it comes from processed foods

Speaking of sodium...

If you are currently living with hypertension, you need toavoid salt and sodium. Today a shocking 90% of daily sodium Americans take in comes from processed foods and foods from restaurants — so you really want to be careful with the foods you eat. More on that in a few. 

However, if your blood pressure is in the normal, healthy range, than salt that occurs naturally in foods you eat is perfectly fine, when consumed in moderation. And if you blood pressure is below 120/80, then it’s even less of a concern.  

Remember, we are talking about how to prevent high blood pressure. Our regular viewers know that Dr. Nancy recommends youavoid all processed foods, which are loaded with harmful sodium and lots of other inflammatory stuff too! But we do want to point out that small amounts of natural sea salt, or better yet pink Himalayan salt, will not hurt, especially when consumed in moderation,and if you have a healthy blood pressure and if you are physically active. 

As an added bonus, natural sea salt and pink Himalayan salt contain essentialtrace minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which we’ll discuss shortly.

But wait… everybody knows salt makes your blood pressure go up, right? The reality ishalf a teaspoon a daywill cause your diastolic blood pressure — that’s the number on the bottom — to temporarily rise just 2 mm, which really is not a significant amount. The daily recommended dose of salt is1 teaspoon! Again, if you’re in the healthy blood pressure zone, consuming 1 teaspoon of salt will only cause your diastolic blood pressure to fluctuate about 4 mm, and that’s not much. Unfortunately, most people consumemore than doublethat recommended amount. 

As you can see, your maximum daily intakeshould be no more than1,500 milligrams. What it actually is for most Americans is an astounding3,400 milligrams. 

Reading Labels 

Remember that short list we just gave for preventing high blood pressure? Let’s talk about becoming an avid label reader. Now, we don’t really consider our daily salt consumption in terms of teaspoons. We look at the amount of sodium we consume in milligrams. 

So, when you’re at the grocery store, and you’re reaching for any sort of can, box, or jar, it is so, so important that youread the label. If that labels reads anything over400 milligrams per servingin theSodium row, you’re about to consume a high-sodium food and you may want to think about putting that food item back on the shelf. Foods with that much sodium are generally processed, which means that, overall, they’re just not good for you. They don’t contain the freshest ingredients and they’re generally loaded with preservatives, which is where a lot of that sodium comes from. 

Low-sodium foods are anything with a sodium content of140 milligramsor less per serving. And remember 1,500 total is your max for the day, so use that little calculator on your phone and add it up.

What to do if you have high blood pressure

If you’re working with your primary care physician, he or she is more than likely going to prescribe medication for you to take daily in order to get your blood pressure under control. 

But are there things you can also do to lower it naturally, or if you don’t have it then to prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place? 

Why, yes. Yes, there are. 

Top Natural Tips to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Exercise more

This is Priority #1 if you have high blood pressure, and even if you don’t. When youexercise, the heart beats faster, and your breathing gets quicker. That means your heart is getting stronger and it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood in and out. This is good for your blood pressure. Exercising 30 to 40 minutes at a moderate intensity level up to four times per week is the best way to lower blood pressure and help prevent ever getting high blood pressure. 

Only one in five Americans do a sufficient amount of exercise (or even a minimal amount), but it’s super important for keeping blood pressure in check, and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious issues. 

Even moving a little bit more in very basic ways can help. Try to do this whenever you can during your day. This includes taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store if you can instead of driving, or going outside to do some yard work. If you’re someone who is overweight, even a short will help you see improvements in your cardiovascular health!

Maintain a healthy weight

If you’re obese or overweight, gettingdown to a healthy weight will greatly lower blood pressure. Consult your doctor about what your target weight should be, according to your age and height. 

Nix your nicotine addiction

This is an absolute non-negotiable – you mustquit smoking, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Each cigarette you smoke temporarily raises blood pressure for several minutes after you finish. If you’re a heavy smoker, your blood pressure can stay elevated for extended periods of time.

People with high blood pressure who smoke are at greater risk for developing dangerously high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

Even secondhand smoke can put you at increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Aside from providing numerous other health benefits, quitting smoking can help your blood pressure return to normal.

So when it comes to quitting smoking, it’s all hands on deck – do whatever it takes to break this deadly habit. In just a week or so Dr. Nancy will dedicate a complete series to breaking the cycle of addiction, and that will include an episode to help and support you through the process of quitting smoking! 

Manage your stress

If you follow Smarter Nutrition regularly, you know we are always telling you tostress less!It’s so important and the benefits extend well beyond lowering blood pressure, which it will do.Ways to reduce stress include doing some deep breathing exercises, taking a yoga or tai chi class, taking long walks,exercise, andself-care. Spend time with family and friends. Laugh often – laughter truly is the best medicine. 

Eat dark chocolate

Eating up to two squares of dark chocolate that is 60% or more cacao every day has helped lower blood pressure. This is because dark chocolate with a high cacao content is loaded with flavonoids, which help your blood vessels to dilate or open up. 

Eat more garlic

Garlic and garlic extract are great natural remedies for high blood pressure. Plus, vampires won’t come near you! Win-win.

Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus will also help you lower blood pressure. It’s loaded with polyphenols, which are good for your heart. Try it in a tea – it's yummy. Celestial Seasonings uses it as a base in a lot of their herbal teas; just look for organic versions and enjoy! 

Load up on potassium, magnesium, and calcium

People who back off their sodium intake and increase these essential minerals generally see a significant reduction in blood pressure. Let’s take a quick look at each:

Potassium

Normal potassium levels are important for muscle function, including relaxing the walls of the blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure and protects against muscle cramping. Normal potassium levels are also important for conducting electrical signals in the nervous system and in the heart. This protects against an irregular heartbeat and further protects against high blood pressure.

To get more potassium, eat more:

  • Fruits like oranges, cantaloupe, and avocados
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Leafy greens
  • Legumes like kidney beans and lentils
  • Nuts like pistachios, coconut, almonds, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts
  • Seeds like hemp, pumpkin, and flax

Magnesium

Magnesium helps regulate hundreds of body systems, including blood pressure. We need magnesium to help blood vessels relax, and for energy production, and bone development. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that most older adults in the U.S. don't get the proper amount of magnesium in their diets, which could be a significant contributor to high blood pressure. You can get this mineral from food, especially dark, leafy green vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes.

Calcium

Calcium is important for healthy blood pressure because it helps blood vessels tighten and relax when they need to. It's also crucial for healthy bones and the release of hormones and enzymes we need for most body functions. You consume it naturally in several foods, including broccoli,  dark, leafy greens, chia seeds, and almonds.  

While we always recommend a “food first” approach to nutrition, to make sure you are getting enough of these essential minerals, we also recommend you supplement your diet with a multivitamin that sources its minerals from the best, most bioavailable sources. Most multivitamins come in the form of one simple pill, but the reality is that it’s literally impossible to get all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals in one compact capsule. TheSmarter Multivitamin was formulated based on a massive, comprehensive study, conducted over 10 years, which found that most multivitamins are completely off-base regarding how many vitamins and minerals Americans are deficient in.

Reduce Your Sugar Intake

We already talked about watching your sodium intake from processed foods, but you should alsowatch your sugar intake from them as well.Sugar can also lead to high blood pressure. That includes refined or simple carbohydrates like white bread which converts to sugar. Reducing the amount of carbs you eat daily can help lower blood pressure, as can cutting out extra sugar like sodas, and sugary desserts. 

Wrap-Up

We never want to alarm you, but high blood pressure is a really important topic and one you can easily control and prevent by making a few simple tweaks to your daily routine, including:

  • Limit your sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. Remember, low-sodium foods contain 140 milligrams or less. High-sodium foods contain 400 milligrams or more. 
  • Use sea salt or Himalayan pink salt — consuming 1 teaspoon per day should have minimal impact on your blood pressure
  • Eliminate processed foods and refined sugars.
  • Eat more potassium, magnesium, and calcium-rich foods, and remember to supplement with aSmarter Nutrition Multivitamin.
  • Garlic, hibiscus, and dark chocolate have all been proven to lower blood pressure. 

High blood pressure affects almost half of all adults in the U.S. It is the leading cause of heart disease-related deaths, and two huge reasons for this are:

  • Poor eating habits
  • Not enough exercise

This is a very serious issue! Work with your primary care physician if you have high blood pressure or if you’re at risk of getting high blood pressure. Also, take into account the natural remedies you can start implementing today to ensure you keep your blood pressure in that 120/80 zone.

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