In my opinion, blood pressure shouldn't be elevated above 140/85. I know that many experts say a much lower level is optimal. But in my practice, I've found that lowering blood pressure below 140/80 is, especially in people with fatigue, more likely to cause side effects, and offers diminishing returns.
So at that point, optimizing blood pressure with lifestyle and natural changes is the approach I prefer.Here's how:
1. Take Your Medicine
In many cases, medical attempts to deal with disease end up doing more harm than good. But drugs for elevated blood pressure are a critical exception.
If you've been diagnosed with elevated blood pressure, it's smart to take the medications that can bring it under control. Because chronically elevated blood pressure can cause cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke), the leading cause of death in the U.S.
While the medicine stabilizes your situation, you can also start using natural remedies to lay the groundwork for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, working with your doctor to gradually reduce your medication once the blood pressure has stayed normal for 3 months.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise helps optimize blood pressure, whether it's elevated or low. The best exercise? A walk outdoors in the sunshine, which also delivers vitamin D (the "sunshine vitamin"), a nutrient critical for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
3. Don't Sweat the Salt
The role of salt in elevated blood pressure is overemphasized. The level of salt that most people eat does not contribute significantly to the problem. In fact, study after study shows that people who restrict salt to the level recommended by the government die younger than those eat more salt.
Further, the level of salt restriction necessary to lower blood pressure is so severe that most people can't do it and just end up feeling guilty — which is certainly not good for health!
So you may not need to torture yourself about the salt. Instead, I recommend people just aim to be reasonable.
As for those with low blood pressure: They need to increase their salt (and water) intake to optimize pressure levels.
4. Get Potassium and Magnesium in Your Diet
Research shows that elevated blood pressure usually isn't the result of too much salt, but rather of too little potassium, another key mineral.
To get your potassium, I recommend one or two of the following every day:
• Eat a banana (slicing one over a bowl of whole grain breakfast cereal is a great way).
• Eat one half of an avocado, which also delivers a big dose of potassium.
• Drink an eight-ounce glass of V8 juice, tomato juice and/or coconut water — all rich sources of potassium.
Magnesium is another mineral that helps promote healthy blood pressure. You can get this from your diet be eating green leafy vegetables and nuts (especially almonds).
5. Lose Weight
This is a tried-and-true method for lowering elevated blood pressure. In a six-month study, 50% of overweight people with elevated blood pressure who lost weight normalized their pressure. The easiest way to lose weight is to follow a diet that emphasizes filling, low-calorie foods, like vegetables, fruits, beans, fish and chicken. Simply avoiding sugars and starches (e.g., wheat and rice) can also make a big difference.
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