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?