1 in 3
adults has high blood pressure in the UK. If left untreated, this increases your risk of strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, and kidney disease. 1 in 5
adults are unaware that they have high blood pressure.
If you detect and treat it in time, blood pressure is generally easy to control. Natural lifestyle changes play a major part in keeping blood pressure under control and leading a healthy life.
What is normal blood pressure?
Blood pressure is measured using 2 numbers. The upper number called ‘systolic’ is the pressure in your arteries as blood is pumped from the heart. The lower number called ‘diastolic’ is the pressure in your arteries in between heartbeats, or the resting pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg (millimeters of Mercury).
Blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg is considered normal.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
Usually there are no symptoms. You would discover a high blood pressure at a routine check up at your doctor’s surgery.
may experience headaches, dizziness, chest tightness, funny rhythms of the heart or blurred vision. If you do experience any of these, get your blood pressure checked. These symptoms are NOT specific to raised blood pressure and may be caused by other conditions.
If you are over 40, you should check your blood pressure every 5 years
You could check your blood pressure at:
- GP surgery.
- Workplace if there are facilities.
- Home check with a home blood pressure monitor.
What increases risk of high blood pressure?
You are at increased risk if:
- Overweight – The more you weigh, the harder the heart needs to pump to supply the tissues of the body.
- Age – The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. After the age of 65, the risk is greater.
- Race – High blood pressure is more common in people of African origin. They are also more likely to develop complications of high blood pressure like kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack.
- Family history – If you have a close relative with high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it.
- Diet – A diet high in salt is more likely to cause high blood pressure.
- Chronic diseases – If you suffer from diabetes, kidney disease, or sleep apnoea, you have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure
Treatment of high blood pressure
The main ways of treating high blood pressure is through natural lifestyle changes and medication.
“Blood pressure management is 70% lifestyle and 30% medications. If you don’t make lifestyle changes, don’t bother taking blood pressure medications, because they won’t work effectively,” says preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD
, Co-Director, Center for Blood Pressure Disorders in Cleveland Clinic. This was published in Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor
7 ways of controlling blood pressure naturally
Blood pressure can be controlled naturally using some simple measures:
- Eat less salt – This is probably the most effective way of controlling blood pressure. An average diet contains 3500 mg of salt. The recommendation by the American Heart Association is to consume no more than 1500 mg salt a day, which is about 1 tsp.
Simple measures like flavouring with other spices and herbs rather than salt can do the trick.
Cooking at home and avoiding processed foods is a great way to control salt in your diet. Processed
food is usually laden with salt and difficult to measure. You can try comparing labels to choose low salt options.
As a rule of thumb, the more you cook from scratch using wholesome natural ingredients, the better it is. Avoid or limit take-aways. Again, you have no idea about the added salt.
Control portion size if you have to have food that is seasoned well with salt. That way you will consume less salt.
- Increase intake of potassium – potassium has a two-fold role in reducing blood pressure.
- Potassium decreases sodium levels as you lose sodium through the urine.
- Potassium reduces the tension in blood vessels which can cause a drop in blood pressure.
Potassium rich foods include bananas, sweet potatoes, apricots, avocados, mushrooms, peas, raisins and many other. Take your pick.
Remember however, that too much potassium can be harmful. People with kidney disease and on medications should consult their doctor before going on any kind of diet or increasing intake of potassium significantly.
Do not take any over the counter potassium supplements without consulting your doctor.
- Watch your waistline – Reducing weight if you are overweight has great benefits in achieving good blood pressure control. In general, you drop your blood pressure by 1 mmHg for every kg of weight you shed.
A waistline of over 40 inches in men and over 35 inches in women is seen to increase the risk of high blood pressure. So, in addition to losing weight, do watch your waistline.
- Exercise – Regular exercise helps in the control of blood pressure. You can choose from:
- High-intensity interval training
- Strength training exercises
The way that exercise helps in blood pressure control is through a complex interplay
of many factors like effects on blood vessel walls, kidneys, and increasing insulin sensitivity
What we do know is that for exercise to be effective, you need to exercise either 30 minutes every day, or 150 minutes a week
. This can reduce blood pressure by 5-8 mm Hg.
Make sure you consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regime.
Also, be consistent.
Blood pressure can creep up again if you stop exercising.
- Diet – There are many diets that are advocated for blood pressure control. The one recommended by American Heart Association and many others is the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
You can read
more about the diet. It also helps in preventing osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is a healthy way of eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Over a period of time, your blood pressure should show a decrease by a few numbers. This should go hand in hand with other measures.
- Reduce caffeine – It is debatable if coffee actually increases blood pressure. That’s good news for the ‘kahwa’ lovers!
If you are drink coffee regularly, it’s unlikely that your blood pressure will increase. Try taking your blood pressure with a home monitor within 30 minutes of consuming coffee to see if coffee has an effect on your blood pressure.
- Reduce Stress – Easier said than done. There is not a lot of evidence that stress directly causes persistently raised blood pressure. However, every time you are stressed, your blood pressure rises because of the ‘stress’ hormones that are released. Whether this translates into raised blood pressure permanently is not known.
Ways of controlling stress:
- Avoid stressful situations – If traffic stresses you out, choose non-peak times for routine things like shopping.
- Plan ahead if you feel there are days that are super busy. Break up tasks into smaller chunks.
- Ask for help from family and friends. You may well realize that people are more than happy to chip in. You can do the same for them.
- Make it a point to do what you enjoy for a part of the day at least, be it gardening, going on a walk, or reading a book. It’s therapeutic.
- Gratitude is a great way of destressing. Whatever it is that is stressing you out, think of the immense favours of Allah swt on you, from the obvious of your family, home, and your physical senses of sight and hearing. And the things that you are not even aware of – like the breath you take and remember the number of people who need a machine to breathe for them.
Eating a healthy diet with garlic, celery, berries, fish, and other natural ingredients is beneficial for health in general.
I have not gone into any natural supplements that claim to benefit control of blood pressure because there are no robust clinical studies that prove them to be of benefit.
Is there any harm in trying them?
Unfortunately, herbal supplements do not undergo the same scientific scrutiny that medications do. Read here
if you want to know more about choosing supplements.
Some may actually cause harm as they may contain ingredients that are either not specified or are present in large quantities.
Remember it’s not safe just because it says ‘natural’.
Bear in mind that any supplements should be taken under the supervision of a doctor.
Eat sensibly, exercise and try and not get stressed. If you are prescribed blood pressure medication, do take them regularly.
Try the above measures even if your blood pressure is normal.
Prevention is better than cure.
Do let me know what works for you if you do have high blood pressure. Share below any evidence-based tips that may help other readers.