Last winter I had to do my 5 year colonoscopy (family history sucks!). When they took my blood pressure just prior to the procedure it was sky high, way more than my ‘normal’ of around 130/80. Of course, part of the reason for the higher pressure no doubt was the stress of the colonoscopy prep the day before and the anticipation of the procedure (last time I feinted when they tried to wake me up!).
Concerned, I bought a cuff to use at home, did some research to find out how to lower blood pressure and checked in with my doctor to see if I needed to get on some blood pressure lowering medication.
She thought I could try lifestyle changes first – so I did. I was successful in getting my pressure back under control. Here is what I did.
Introduced flax seed into my diet.
I found some brown flax seed for sale on the internet (couldn’t find it in my local grocery stores) and bought a boxful. As I need to, I grind the seeds in my coffee bean grinder. Sprinkled on salads, pasta, yogurt and anything else that you want, it introduces more fiber which helps lower blood pressure. I also started using multi-grain bread instead of white and ate more oatmeal during the winter months (with cinnamon, raisins and walnuts, yum).
Upped the amount of my potassium intake.
Potassium reduces the effect of salt on your blood pressure (salt can cause it to increase). To up my potassium, I added one cup of low sodium V-8 Juice a day and started eating bananas with my blueberry/strawberry mix. In addition, I substituted a serving of almonds for the chips I used to snack on. Almonds (raw unsalted) have tremendous health benefits, including helping to keep your potassium levels up.
Increased the amount of garlic used in cooking.
Garlic has been shown to reduce blood pressure by as much as 7 – 8 % (according to WebMd). I used to buy the fresh cloves, but switched to the jars of chopped garlic to make it easier to use. Now I add it to everything from pasta to soups to bread and more.
Introduced more volume of foods rich in anthocyanins – blueberries, strawberries and paw paws.
The anthocyanins are said protect against hypertension. These fruits also contain anti-oxidents that help protect cells from free radicals. I love blueberries (have my own bushes which typically bear loads of fruit in early July) and strawberries. I mix them with bananas and a small amount of sugar for a real American red, white and blue treat. Paw paws grow wild around here and I tried them for the first time last fall. I have some tucked away in the freezer for a healthy nosh the rest of the year.
Kept up healthy habits.
I continued my morning exercise routine (45 – 1 hour of alternating aerobics, weight training and stretching) and walking routine (2 – 3 miles every other day).
I figured the best thing I could do for my overall health and appearance was to loose weight. Unfortunately for me it is also the hardest. Why is it always harder to STOP doing something than it is to take positive action?
I limited lunches 3 times a week to a liquid lunch of Slim-fast and tried very hard to eliminate sugar, and any food intake at all after 7 pm. This worked well until summer vacation and activities interfered. However, I have still managed to drop 13 pounds and keep it off. Another 10 to go (sigh).
Greatly reduced salt intake.
I love chips, so this one was hard for me and I have succeeded only off and on (mostly on though). I also started using unsalted butter and reduced the table salt I sprinkle on food when cooking.
Pressure still goes up and down.
Although I have reduced my blood pressure, it does still fluctuate and I would really like to get it down even further. The changes I used are not short term solutions. They will need to be permanent life style changes and as you know, those can be very difficult.
Wish me continued luck?
Great job! It really is amazing that proper nutrition can do! =)
Mom used to say ‘You are what you eat’. Guess she knew!
Excellent! Congratulations to you! I’m a firm believer that lifestyle changes are the best permanent fix for most of society’s health issues. Keep it up, and I’m sure more than your blood pressure will benefit!
Thanks. Lifestyle changes are hard though.
I’m right there with you…mine has been pre-hypertensive for a couple years and I work out practically everyday, and eat most of those foods (although haven’t tried the flax seed). I’m working on being more type b, and meditate, and still sometimes it’s higher than I’d like. I don’t know if it’s the freelance lifestyle or hereditary (both parents and grandparents). I don’t want to take medication either so I’ll try anything natural first. It’s frustrating because I feel like I’m doing everything right.
I do think heredity has a lot to do with it, but I have read that half or more of people over a certain age have high blood pressure (at least here in the US).
Sounds like you’re doing all the right things! Kudos to you for taking charge of your diet and exercise plan. And way to go on losing 13 pounds–that’s awesome!
Thanks. Keeping it off is now the issue!
Good for you for taking charge of the issue. Too often imho Docs will immediately jump to a pill for issues like this when lifestyle changes may take care of the problem (and have other benefits!). I know most Drs will say patients won’t stick with lifestyle changes and want a pill instead of making changes. That’s surely true for some fraction of people, but what’s wrong with the Doc saying something like “you may be able to manage this issue through lifestyle changes instead of medication. Would you like to give that a try, or do you prefer I put you on medication, forever, with these possible side effects?”
I was very surprised when my doctor didn’t try to put me on pills right away. She actually told me that lifestyle changes can have a large impact on blood pressure.
Lowering blood pressure will do wonder to your overall health. Good job. Thanks for a list of ways to lower blood pressure, I should share that with some of my family members that have high blood pressure.
Bananas also have very high potassium level.
While losing weight will help with blood pressure, regular exercise will provide more benefits.
I’m on the other side of scale. I donate blood regularly and every time I go to Canadian Blood Services for donation they always ask me if I’m some sort of super athlete or something. At the last donation my blood pressure was like 105/67 and 55 pulses per minute. 🙂
Yeah, mine used to be like that too when I was 30 😀