High blood pressure, or hypertension, can carry such symptoms as headaches, nosebleeds, and episodes of dizziness or sweating. But in most cases, patients are asymptomatic; for this reason, hypertension is often referred to as “the silent killer.” You could be symptom free until experiencing a heart attack or stroke, or suffering brain, kidney, or vision problems!
What do blood pressure numbers mean?
Blood pressure has two measurements: systolic and diastolic. These measures are represented as a fraction (e.g., 120/80). Systolic is the top or first number (i.e., 120) and is the amount of blood pressure when the heart is beating. The bottom or second number (i.e., 80) is the amount of blood pressure when the heart is at rest—in between beats. Readings are broken down into several categories:
Normal: Less than 120/80
Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-99
Stage 2 hypertension: 160 and above/100 and above
It is estimated that 1 in 3 American adults has hypertension. Although this disorder can affect anyone, you are at higher risk if you:
It is important to note that hypertension is classified into one of two groups: essential or secondary. Essential, or primary, hypertension is the most common type—accounting for about 90 percent of all cases. A single, specific cause is not known. There are however many risk factors that have been identified:
Secondary hypertension is elevated blood pressure that results from an underlying, identifiable, and often correctable cause. Only about 5 to 10 percent of hypertension cases are thought to result from secondary causes. Patients with secondary hypertension are treated by controlling or removing the underlying disease or pathology, although they may still require anti-hypertensive medication.
Medicines can control hypertension, but they cannot cure it. Once started, these medications need to be taken the rest of your life; although in many cases the dosage can be reduced over time if there are concurrent and adequate positive changes in diet and lifestyle and targeted nutritional supplements.
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Consuming a diet rich in plant foods is one of the best ways to reduce blood pressure. There are a few reasons for this. First, plant foods are generally richer in blood pressure lowering potassium than animal products. Second, they are not loaded with sodium as found in many packaged foods. Societies that consume little salt (sodium chloride) have little problem with hypertension. You can reduce salt intake by not adding salt to your meals. Salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride can be helpful to reduce added amounts to food. However, most sodium comes from eating packaged foods or dining out. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium. Limiting your sodium intake to 1500-2000 mg daily can help some individuals lower their blood pressure. Consult with your doctor on the optimal intake for you depending on your medical status.
The DASH diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” has been shown to reduce blood pressure. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts, and has low amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages. It is high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium which help lower blood pressure. Potassium is particularly important in reducing blood pressure.
Other foods which can help reduce blood pressure include celery, onions, garlic. Include these often in your diet. Lastly, a number of clinical studies show that consuming both dark chocolate 46-105 grams/day, providing 213-500 mg of cocoa polyphenols, modestly lowers systolic blood pressure. Pomegranate juice has been shown to reduce blood pressure, consume 4 to 8 ounces daily.
Reduce or avoid the intake of caffeine containing foods such as coffee, tea, chocolate, or soda pop as they can elevate blood pressure in some individuals.
Stop smoking as it acts as a vasoconstrictor to elevate blood pressure and do not consume more than one alcoholic drink a day. Regular exercise and weight loss will also help to lower blood pressure effectively. Dr. Stengler also recommends deep breathing exercises shown in studies to reduce blood pressure.
Several studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 reduces blood pressure. In one study researchers followed 109 patients with essential hypertension who were given an average of 225 mg of CoQ10 in addition to their existing drug regimen. Participants had significantly improved systolic and diastolic blood pressure and 51% of patients came completely off of between one and three antihypertensive drugs at an average of 4.4 months after starting CoQ10. (Langsjoen P, Langsjoen P, Willis R, Folkers K. Treatment of essential hypertension with coenzyme Q10. Mol Aspects Med1994;15 Suppl:s265–72.)
A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition involved a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of seventy four people with type 2 diabetes. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive an oral dose of 100 mg CoQ twice daily (200 mg/day), 200 mg fenofibrate each morning, both or neither for 12 weeks. CoQ was found to significantly decrease systolic (-6.1 mmHg, ) and diastolic (-2.9) blood pressure. (J M Hodgson1, G F Watts1,a, D A Playford2, V Burke1 and K D Croft1. Coenzyme Q10 improves blood pressure and glycaemic control: a controlled trial in subjects with type 2 diabetes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2002) 56, 1137-1142.
Dosage: Take 200 mg daily.
Safety: Coenzyme is very safe. Those on blood thinning medications should consult with their doctor before using.