How to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Medications for high blood pressure can deplete the body of minerals important to heart function, ultimately causing more problems than they solve! Mild to moderate high blood pressure can often be successfully treated with non-drug methods.
If you’re taking medicine for high blood pressure, your doctor should be monitoring you regularly and should have a goal of getting you off the medication. High blood pressure is an indication of an imbalance in your body that needs to be corrected. The drugs will lower your blood pressure, but they won’t correct whatever is causing the high blood pressure in the first place. This is where you need to be your own detective and track down the culprits causing your high blood pressure.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Even though mainstream medical experts agree that the first line of defense for high blood pressure is lifestyle changes, most doctors believe it’s too hard to convince people to change their habits. Talking to you about giving up smoking and eating more fiber is also time consuming. So, most doctors will simply write a prescription for a blood pressure-lowering medicine and send you on your way.
It may seem easier to take a pill to lower blood pressure than to change life-long eating, drinking, smoking and couch potato habits, but as I’m sure you know by now, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Blood pressure-lowering drugs can have unpleasant side effects and in general, do not reduce the risk of dying.
The biggest risk factors for high blood pressure are obesity, alcohol, smoking, a high fat diet, stress and lack of exercise. If you drastically cut your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, eat a diet that’s mostly whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, take a brisk 20-minute walk every day, and eat fat in moderation, I guarantee you’ll lose weight. If you make the above diet and lifestyle changes, quit smoking, and keep your alcohol consumption low, it is a near certainty that your blood pressure will drop. If you do all of the above, and your blood pressure is still high, take a good look at the stress in your life, and take steps to reduce it. This may mean cutting down on your commitments, getting more sleep or learning how to meditate. Most of us know exactly what our life’s stressors are. It’s a matter of making our health and well-being important enough to make the needed changes.
Stay Healthy on Blood Pressure Drugs
While there are a variety of blood pressure medications available, diuretics are the most common blood pressure medicine prescribed, and should almost always be the first medication a doctor tries. Relatively speaking, they are the safest of the blood pressure-lowering drugs. They do have their problems, however. The biggest problem is the depletion of minerals, especially potassium and magnesium, which are essential to proper heart function. There’s no sense in lowering your blood pressure to prevent heart disease if your method of lowering it is going to cause it anyway! This is what happens all too often with diuretics.
You will urinate more frequently when you’re on a diuretic. Along with excreting salt in the urine, you excrete other important minerals. One of the down sides of giving a diuretic to an older people that doctors don’t tend to think about, is that because it makes them urinate more often, they have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom when they’re sleepy and groggy, increasing the likelihood of bone-breaking falls. Combine an older woman, the necessity to get up in the middle of the night to urinate, and bone loss caused by excessive calcium excretion, and you have a recipe for a hip fracture!
The thiazide diuretics raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, make the blood more prone to clot, thus increasing your risk of stroke, and make blood sugar unstable, increasing your risk of hyperglycemia and diabetes. All this indicates that diuretics may cause more problems than they solve—a good reason to try lowering your blood pressure without medication first, and not to over-react and start taking blood pressure-lowering drugs unless your blood pressure is very high.
More Diuretic Side Effects
Another side effect of diuretics is a higher susceptibility to heat stroke or heat stress, caused by the body’s inability to cool off by sweating. This is particularly important for older people who live in a warm or hot climate. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids when you’re taking a diuretic, but in hot weather it’s a must. Since the secondary purpose of taking diuretics is to reduce your levels of sodium, it’s obviously wise to follow a low-sodium diet, to reduce your need for the diuretics. One of the best ways to do this is to eliminate processed and packaged foods from your diet, and concentrate on whole foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. When you do buy processed foods, read labels carefully. Many low fat or sugar-free foods add lots of salt to improve taste. Studies have shown that an extreme low sodium diet causes more problems than it solves. Don’t overdo it.
Reducing your salt intake won’t be effective in lowering your blood pressure unless your potassium intake is also high, and yet people who take diuretics often become potassium-deficient. Signs of potassium deficiency can include muscle cramps, weakness and an irregular heartbeat. Since potassium supplements can have problems of their own, including diarrhea and nausea, eating a potassium-rich diet is the best way to maintain healthy potassium levels. Most fresh fruits and vegetables contain potassium. Those highest in potassium are bananas, apples, avocados, lima beans, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupes, and apricots. Fish and meats also contain potassium. Another good way to get plenty of potassium is by drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Please avoid the types of tomato juice high in sodium!
Along with sodium and potassium, other minerals such as calcium and magnesium are excreted in the urine when you’re taking diuretics. Please be sure to take a multi-vitamin with a good mineral mix in it, or add separate mineral supplements. There is an especially high risk of mineral depletion when you combine alcohol and diuretics. Alcohol is a nutrient robber. It depletes your body of vitamins and minerals. One of the minerals most susceptible to depletion by alcohol and diuretics is magnesium. Ironically, magnesium is also one of the minerals most critical to proper heart function. If you are taking a diuretic and also drink alcohol, please be sure to take a magnesium supplement, 500 mg twice a day, in the gluconate or citrate form.
Natural Blood Pressure-Lowering Program
- One of the best ways to reduce blood pressure, which you may find hard to believe because it’s so simple, is to drink plenty of clean water. Depending on your body size, you should be drinking 6-10 glasses of water per day. Try it!
- Moderate exercise at least 20 minutes every day or 45 minutes 3-4 times a week.
- Eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet emphasizing whole, fresh foods, especially vegetables, grains and plenty of fiber.
- Avoid refined, packaged and processed foods, and sweets.
- Limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day or less.
- Stop smoking.
Herbs for Lowering Blood Pressure
- Dong Quai
- Gingko biloba
Foods for Lowering Blood Pressure
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Fresh celery (4 stalks a day has been known to significantly reduce blood pressure)
- Cold water, deep sea fish (cod, mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring)
- Olive oil (instead of vegetable oils or butter)
For more information on blood pressure, read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Blood Pressure by John R. Lee, MD.