High blood pressure, clinically referred to as hypertension, is commonly called the ‘silent killer’ because people suffering from high blood pressure typically do not experience any adverse symptoms until their levels are very high. Hypertension affects one of out every four people in North America and is the disease that doctors see most often in their clinics. The Society of Medical Decision making released a study stating that the healthcare system would save 68 billion dollars if hypertensive patients did not have high blood pressure. This is an incredible sum! Moreover, there is tremendous amount of scientific evidence supporting diet and lifestyle changes as potent treatment options for high blood pressure. Even better, these natural solutions do not have any of the nasty side effects of hypertensive medications – fatigue, joint pain, decreased sexual ability, dizziness, depression – that can diminish quality of life and overall health and performance. The following key nutrients – potassium, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and dietary fibre – can improve blood pressure and are a terrific starting point to help you regain control of your blood pressure.
The typical North American diet has a potassium-to-sodium ratio of 1:2. This means that for each tablespoon of potassium you are consuming, the average person consumes two tablespoons of sodium! We are constantly reading and hearing about the negative effects of sodium. Well, sodium is a tremendously important mineral in the body, but if you eat processed, packaged, or fast foods you will be getting inundated with sodium. This is because sodium is commonly used to preserve foods. What is the link between sodium and potassium? The two minerals work together to balance many functions in the body, including blood pressure. Too much sodium compared to potassium and you will tend toward higher blood pressure. Too little sodium to potassium and you will tend toward low blood pressure or hypotension. The key is to restore your levels to match those of our ancient ancestors in the Paleolithic era. Those ‘hunter and gatherer’ had a potassium-to-sodium ration of 5:1 (a drastic change from our current levels of 1:2). Studies show that blood pressure drops as potassium consumption increases. To boost your potassium levels aim to consume 2,600- 5,000mg of potassium daily by consuming green leafy vegetables, nuts, bananas, cantaloupes and in smaller quantities in virtually all fruits and vegetables.
The Mediterranean diet has gathered growing popularity over the last decade for its many health promoting benefits compared to the Western diet. One of the reasons is the rich consumption of Olive oil throughout the region. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)s like omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid. A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated that regular consumption of 2 tablespoons of olive oil reduced blood pressure by 8mmHg systolic and 6mmHg diastolic. Even more encouraging was that 48% percent of participants no longer needed to maintain hypertensive medications post-intervention. Try adding two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to your salads, pastas, or drizzle on steamed vegetables to help improve blood pressure.
Lastly, eating whole foods with high fibre content will not only help reduce blood pressure, but regulate cholesterol levels and improve digestive function. Fibre fights hypertension by improving the integrity and strength of blood vessels, it encourages the elimination of sodium, and it decreases the activation of your sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight of flight’ system that is activated due to long work days and hectic schedules) that increases blood pressure. Several clinical trials have shown reductions as great as 9.8 mmHg in systolic and 5.5 mmHg in diastolic blood pressures with the addition of increased fibre in the diet. Aim to consume 20-30g of fibre daily by adding short-grain brown rice, steel-cut oats, and lots of non-starchy vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts – to your diet.
Start improving your blood pressure control and overall health by adding foods high in potassium, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) like extra-virgin olive oil, and plenty of hypertension friendly fibre to start you on your way to better blood pressure control. If you are taking medications or require a more intensive treatment protocol contact the Clinic today to book an appointment.