The Western approach to health care might be best described as ‘reactive’. You get sick, your doctor prescribes some sort of medicine, and hopefully you get better. Coincidentally, perhaps, health-care costs are skyrocketing, as are such lifestyle-related health problems as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Taking a preventative approach to health care, as individuals, may be our best hope of living to old age, and being healthy enough to enjoy it!
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a medical condition in which the arterial blood pressure is higher than would normally be found in a healthy person (blood pressure consistently above 140/90 will generally be considered to be high).
Why is it a problem?
Hypertension is a risk factor in strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. It forces your heart to work harder, and may result in your heart receiving too little oxygen. It also causes a strain on arteries and kidneys, and may even lead to blindness. And it may be doing all of these things without you even knowing it, as it often has no symptoms.
What causes it?
A variety of factors are linked to hypertension, including: stress, lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and certain nutrient deficiencies.
Oh, and salt. There is a strong link between high sodium intake and high blood pressure. “Although the human body requires only about 500 mg of sodium a day, the average American ingests between 6,900 mg and 9,000 mg of sodium a day.” [ www.umm.edu ] Wow! Is it any wonder that one person in five has high blood pressure?
What can you eat to reduce it?
Potassium – fruits, especially those high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strawberries, and rhubarb, oat bran, and cabbage are all good. Also fresh herbs like basil, dill, and spearmint.
Magnesium – rice bran, wheat bran, cucumbers, leafy greens, bananas, fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…), beans, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds are good sources of magnesium.
Calcium – low-fat dairy, beans, almonds, broccoli, and dark leafy greens are all great sources of calcium.
(Note that potassium, magnesium, and calcium supplements have NOT been found to have the same beneficial effect on blood pressure)
Fiber – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are all great foods for increasing your fiber intake.
Omega 3 fatty acids – fish, especially fatty fish like trout, mackerel, and salmon, flax seeds and chia seeds, and walnuts are all good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.
One thing you could change in your diet that would provide substantial amounts of all of these nutrients is to replace your current breakfast with a Green Smoothie.
While you’re changing your eating habits to eat more healthily, it’s worth considering changing some of the other causes of high blood pressure while you’re at it – stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, and go out for a walk after supper.
Note: if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, make sure to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.