Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
Something’s got my blood pressure going up, so I thought I’d share it with you!
Lately, in almost every health history intake form on a new client or student, I see that they are on blood pressure medication. I told one of them to check out my newsletter archives and see what I had written about naturally getting your blood pressure into a healthy zone. She came back and reported that nowhere in my Joyinmovement newsletters had I written about blood pressure.
Yikes, she was right. In five years of writing these newsletters, while I’ve covered a lot of territory and indeed written about blood pressure in my blog and other articles, I haven’t done a JIM letter on this topic, so here we go.
But first, please understand that even if you are NOT on blood pressure medication and don’t have high blood pressure, I can almost guarantee that someone you care about (family member, friend, co-worker) is. The numbers, at least here in the United States, are staggering.
Point number 1:
If you have high blood pressure, or are worried about developing high blood pressure… stop relying on your doctor to fix it. That’s a bold statement, I know. And it may even ruffle a few feathers.
The medical establishment doesn’t care about curing your high blood pressure. It just wants to keep you coming back visit after visit. That’s how the doctors and hospitals get paid; for treating you, over and over.
They give you lots of pills and bring you in for an unending stream of doctor’s appointments. The more you see the doctor and the more pills you take, the more money everybody makes. The pills pay off the pharmaceutical corporations and the doctors on their payroll.
Where was the last doctor’s office you visited that had the number 1 best treatment for high blood pressure on display?
How many doctors keep treadmills in the waiting room for patients to “practice and learn” how to cure themselves? You’d have to demonstrate you were willing to walk and try exercise before you tried pills.
Pretty interesting idea, huh?
For those of you diagnosed with high blood pressure, I ask you this.
Has your doctor ever written a prescription for you to “walk 15-30 minutes a day, three times a week”? If he hasn’t, fire him today. If he has, you’re one of the fortunate few.
Blood pressure is created by the pumping of your heart. The blood racing from the heart pushes against the walls of your arteries and vessels. The squeeze creates the higher pressure called the systolic number. It should be around 120.
When the heart relaxes, the pressure drops to the “resting state” called the diastolic pressure. It should be around 80. This gives us the normal blood pressure of 120/80.
But if your cardiovascular system is working at 140/90 or higher, you have high blood pressure.
The problem is you don’t notice blood pressure at those levels. You normally have no symptoms. Your pressure can go higher over time, doing damage to your body, organs, and your brain. That’s why it’s called “The Silent Killer.”
By the time symptoms emerge, it’s often too late to avoid dire (even fatal) health consequences. One of the first signs may be a stroke.
Fortunately, you don’t need a physician to monitor your blood pressure. Many stores like Rite Aid and Walgreens (and even some Wal-Mart pharmacies) have blood-pressure monitors in the store. I urge you to routinely sit down at one to make sure your blood pressure is OK.
If your first reading shows your blood pressure is high, don’t panic. Check its accuracy. Take the test again in a couple of days or at a different store. And ask the pharmacy how often it calibrates the machine (they should at least once per year). Pay attention to the instructions and don’t drink caffeine or smoke before checking.
If you repeatedly find your pressure is high, you’re not alone. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates one in three Americans has high blood pressure. Some estimate 90% of Americans over 55 have high blood pressure. This is serious. Over time the Silent Killer leads to:
- Kidney failure
- Memory loss
- Erectile dysfunction
High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke in the U.S. and 70% of strokes are linked to high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are four to six more times likely to have a stroke.
It’s also the leading cause of kidney failure. High blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, preventing the kidneys from properly removing waste and excess fluid from the body. Excess fluid in the blood will raise blood pressure even more.
If you find you have elevated pressure, you need to reverse the ongoing processes as soon as possible. And the first thing that means is not falling for the standard doctor’s line about sodium.
This myth first gained fame in the 1940s when a doctor named Walter Kempner found restricting table salt (sodium) lowered blood pressure. Several studies done around that time showed removing sodium from a diet lowered some people’s blood pressure.
But reducing salt intake is helpful only for those who are salt sensitive.
More important is to increase your uptake of another salt, potassium. Low potassium levels are more likely to increase blood pressure than high levels of sodium are. The average American consumes about 1,500 milligrams less daily than the recommended 4,700 milligrams of potassium.
To make sure you’re getting lots of potassium, focus on eating foods like bananas, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Also try to balance the amounts of sodium and potassium you consume.
And here’s some good news for your taste buds. Look at this list of four of my favorite foods to lower your blood pressure:
- Olive oil
Researchers in Germany found that eating six grams of dark chocolate per day (about one and a half Hershey Kisses) lowers blood pressure. This also significantly reduces cardiovascular risks like heart attacks or strokes.
Antioxidant-rich foods (like chocolate) help blood vessels expand and regulate the flow of blood.
But this isn’t a license to gorge yourself. Eating too much chocolate can pile on the calories, making you heavier and more likely to develop high blood pressure. If you don’t want the 30 or so calories you get from six grams of dark chocolate per day, I have a solution.
Park your car walking distance from work and eat a piece of dark chocolate each way, every day. A few months of this and you might not even need blood pressure medications!
You can also eat cooked eggs. Laboratory research shows chemicals, called ACE inhibitors, are abundant in fried eggs. ACE inhibitors stop the body’s production of angiotensin-converting enzymes. These enzymes are known to cause blood vessels to narrow, making the heart work harder. This is one of the best drugs known by doctors for lowering blood pressure. And since cooking the eggs releases the chemicals, feel free to eat your eggs fried, boiled, poached, or scrambled.
Wine has been praised for all the health benefits it offers. The regular consumption of wine improves digestion and decreases the risk of diabetes, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
I prefer red wine, and it is more powerful than white wine (although whites have plenty of benefit) because dark grape skins provide more antioxidants. The antioxidants help increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). HDL cholesterol inhibits excess levels of harmful cholesterol (a.k.a. low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) from sticking to arteries. That keeps your blood flowing easily.
I try to drink at least one four-ounce glass of wine each day. The health benefits of drinking wine (and other alcoholic drinks) are unquestioned in medical literature. The key is to drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol will actually raise your blood pressure. Men should limit alcohol consumption to two glasses per day. Women, to one glass daily.
Solid scientific evidence shows a Mediterranean diet, which includes tons of olive oil, is not only generally healthy, but actually lowers LDL. The mechanism for this is not fully known. It may be that simple micronutrients within olive oil bestow the benefits.
Also, due to its chemical structure and function, olive oil also protects other cholesterols in your body from oxidation. Thus, the antioxidants in olive oil discourage diseases of inflammation, including heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure.
Once you’ve added potassium and these four foods to your diet, you’re on your way to lowering your blood pressure. These things combined can lower your pressure eight to 10 points.
But the most important things you can do are the simplest and most relaxing.
First, exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are 35% less likely to have high blood pressure than those who are inactive.
All you have to do is walk for 15-30 minutes three times a week for 80% of the benefits of regular exercise. And it doesn’t matter if you walk up stairs, around the mall, or inside the gym on a treadmill. The key is to get out there and move the hips and shoulder joints.
Part of the benefit comes from the movement, and part comes from the state of relaxation that follows exercise. Walking (along with most types of exercise) and the cooldown afterwards release chemicals that relax blood vessels and promote healthy blood pressure.
After a month or two, most people can throw away their blood pressure pills.
The second thing you should do is meditation. This I have written about in many newsletters.
Regular meditation lowers your heart rate and increases both your blood’s oxygen saturation and the delivery of oxygen to tissues. Incredibly, this is the exact same measured benefit you get from exercise.
People who meditate have lower blood pressure, less heart disease, and better oxygen uptake and also report feeling less stressed. This is another way meditation helps lower your blood pressure.
I meditate or practice Tai Chi (which I consider my moving meditation) at least three times a week, usually in the morning. And the older I get, the clearer the benefits of meditation become. In addition to the physiologic benefits, I also enjoy the peace and mindfulness it brings.
After a couple of months of walking and meditation, you can easily lower your blood pressure by 10 points (and as much as 20 points after a year).
If you want to know more about the science of stress and relaxation on your blood pressure, you should read the bookThe Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson.
Be sure to get your blood pressure checked, and try some fun foods like chocolate and red wine daily along with your daily walk or meditation. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy zone is your responsibility and with the suggestions I just gave you it’ll be a FUN responsibility!
OK, I actually feel like my own blood pressure is back to normal after writing this month’s newsletter. Now I can go enjoy my chocolate and wine!
Until next month, keep finding Joyinmovement,