High blood pressure is referred to as the silent killer because very often there are no symptoms associated with the disorder. Severe high blood pressure, also called malignant hypertension, can cause hemorrhages of the small blood vessels, headaches, vomiting, visual impairment, blindness, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. However, even mild to moderate high blood pressure is associated with an increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
What is High Blood Pressure?
From Modern Western Medicine
Blood pressure is expressed as a fraction, such as 110/70 mm Hg, which is considered an ideal blood pressure. Normal is considered 120/80 mm Hg. The measurement mm Hg stands for millimeters of mercury. The first (top) number stands for systolic pressure, or the pressure created when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the aorta, the body’s main artery. The heart’s contraction pushes blood into the arteries, causing them to expand. Once expanded, the arteries recoil, or contract, causing a secondary wave of pressure, termed diastolic pressure, and represented by the second (bottom) number in the blood pressure fraction.
Blood pressure is considered high, or hypertensive, if either the top number or the bottom is consistently above 140/90 mm Hg while the person is at rest.
Who Gets High Blood Pressure?
Forty million Americans have diastolic pressures between 90 and 100 mm Hg.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight. Weight loss alone will lower blood pressure.
- Exercise. Mild aerobic will lower blood pressure significantly.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes raise LDL cholesterol. One cigarette raises blood pressure for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Reduce salt intake and never use salt as a condiment, especially if you are salt-sensitive.
- Reduce fat cholesterol in the diet. Atherosclerosis is a cause of hypertension.
- Reduce alcohol if you consume more than two drinks per day.
- Reduce protein foods, especially animal proteins, which stress the kidneys and cause mineral loss, especially calcium.
- Eat blood-pressure reducing foods and herbs (see below).
Foods to Eat
- Emphasize potassium-rich foods in your diet, such as whole grains, fresh vegetables, beans, and fruit. Low potassium is associated with high blood pressure, and studies have shown that by increasing potassium, high blood pressure normalizes.
- Eat calcium-rich foods, such as leafy greens (collard greens, kale, and mustard greens) and other vegetables, tofu, seeds, nuts, and low-fat animal foods.
- Use garlic as a condiment. Garlic lowers blood pressure. Grate it raw on vegetables and salads or use it in cooking.
- Use onions, garlic, lemon, vinegars, lime, oregano, basil, and other culinary herbs to season food in place of salt.
Read labels on packaged food. “Low sodium” means that there are no more than 140 mg of salt per serving; “very low sodium” means that there are no more than 35 mg of salt per serving. However, check serving size, which might be quite small and deceptive.
Foods to Avoid
- Red meat, eggs, fried foods, and other high-fat foods. Studies have consistently shown that vegetarians have healthier blood pressures than meat eaters.
- Reduce or eliminate salt. Use salt only sparingly in cooking (a pinch). Studies have shown that half of all hypertensives suffer high blood pressure because of salt intake. Humans need only about 1½ tsp. of salt per day, according to the National Academy of Sciences, which is easily obtained as a natural constituent of food.
- Reduced or avoid coffee and other drinks and foods rich in caffeine, which is associated with elevation in blood pressure.
- Walk thee to five times per week, for at least 30 minutes per walking session.
- Avoid competitive sports.
- See exercises in Part III for suggestions on healthy ways to get exercise.
Herbs for Healthy Blood Pressure
- Garlic. Research has shown that garlic significantly lowers blood pressure.
- Shiitake mushrooms lower cholesterol.
- Reishi mushrooms lower cholesterol.
- Potassium: 1000 mg per day. (No RDA exists for potassium; it is widely available in food. Experts say 3000 mg is needed daily.)
- Calcium: 200-500 mg daily
- Fiber (Add to foods; also eat fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans.)
- Meditate, pray, do guided imagery exercises, or chant daily. Stress management has been shown to lower blood pressure significantly.
- Control hostility. Anger dramatically elevates blood pressure. When you argue, emphasize how you feel, as opposed to attacking others for their behavior or their motives; talk slowly and maintain a lower volume to your voice. (Studies have shown that the more rapid and loudly a person speaks, the higher the blood pressure goes.)
- Chamomile soothes, relaxes, refreshes, and calms the overall condition
- Coriander warms, relaxes, deodorizes, and soothes
- Pine promotes constancy, stability, and duration in the face of life’s vicissitudes. It decongests the lungs, relaxes, and promotes confidence.