By Eileen Johnson
As challenging as it may be to come to terms with a diagnosis of hypertension, high blood pressure can actually give us many clues as to what our body might need in order to function in a healthier manner. This can vary from person to person – What do you think your body needs?
- I need more fruits and vegetables! High in antioxidants protective of the heart and blood vessels, rich in fiber known for its cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties, vegetables and fruits should make up the most prominent part of each meal. Five to ten servings are recommended each day.
- I need more potassium. Potassium plays a vital role in balancing the mineral sodium, used by the kidneys to retain fluid in the tissues. Although the body occasionally retains fluids for good reasons during short periods when the body is under stress, long-term fluid retention can be correlated with high blood pressure. High potassium foods include dark greens, avocado, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes. Cut back on heavy salting and consumption of prepackaged food. Kiwi, strawberries and watermelon are high potassium fruits that have a nice diuretic effect.
- I need more magnesium. The mineral magnesium has a relaxing effect on the circulatory system and the mind. A diet high in processed foods often is low in magnesium. Include lots of vegetables, fresh, raw nuts and whole grains.
- I need more exercise. Spin classes, running and swimming are three cardiorespiratory activities that have been found to reduce blood pressure. Strength training not only decreases fat content and increases muscle mass, it also is anti-inflammatory. Strive for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You may want to start slowly and seek advice from your doctor and a good trainer if you haven’t exercised for a while.
- I need more healthy fat. Include moderate amounts of anti-inflammatory fats like olive oil, fish or flax oil, and fresh, raw nuts. Coconut oil is being studied for its anti-inflammatory effects. Add flax oil to salad dressings or mix into cooked cereals or yogurt, but don’t cook with it as it is fragile. Fish oil capsules that say “tested mercury free” or “molecularly distilled” are also excellent choices.
- I need more joy and relaxation in my life. Although stress has only been proven to cause short bursts of high blood pressure, more research should be done on the effects of chronic stress on overall blood pressure. It also may be the result of stress raising blood sugar that eventually leads to cardiovascular damage and a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Consider such beneficial practices as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga in lowering your blood pressure.