Little known fact: May is National Blood Pressure Month. Another fact is that high blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer”. It may be your only symptom and your only warning that something is wrong in the body before it causes a fatal heart attack or stroke. Blood pressure medications are among the most widely prescribed medications in North America and with our diets continuing to grow in salt and processed food, so does the number of prescriptions for these drugs.
This is not to say that if you are currently taking blood pressure medication you should stop. These meds are necessary and often life-saving. However in light of National Blood Pressure Month, I wanted to share with you a few natural ways to lower blood pressure that I’ve seen to be effective in clinical practice.
1. Dandelion leaf tea
This is probably one of the fastest and most effective ways that I’ve witnessed for lowering blood pressure. I stress the fact that it’s the dandelion LEAF tea as opposed to the ROOT (which has more liver detoxifying properties). Dandelion leaf tea works as a potassium sparing diuretic, which means it works the same way as many blood pressure medications by making you pee. It’s all in the dose so don’t expect to drink a cup and be cured. Generally, I have patients drink anywhere from 1-3 cups per day for 1 week, and then I reassess to see how much their BP has come down. Consistency is key with this treatment. It’s often a good idea to combine the dandelion leaf tea with hawthorn and hibiscus, both of which support the heart and a healthy blood pressure.
This is an enzyme produced by the body, important for energy production in the cells, and several biochemical reactions in the body. In higher doses, it’s been proven to lower blood pressure by up to 17 systolic points and 10 diastolic points without side effects. Dose of CoQ10 for hypertension ranges between 100-300mg daily.
Yeah. And I bet up until now, you thought garlic was only good for making out and warding off vampires. Turns out this stinky bulb can lower systolic blood pressure by 16 points! Of course it has to be raw (2 cloves per day) so you might have to choose between having a social life or having low blood pressure. If you choose both, however, you can take it in supplement form! I’ve used Allimax and Garlitrin 4000 with great success. Plus, you get the added bonus of a potent, broad spectrum antimicrobial!
4. Bowen Therapy
If you haven’t already read my article about Bowen Therapy, click here. If you’ve read it, you know that what Bowen Therapy does is take the body from a constant stressed “fight or flight” mode to a relaxed “rest and digest” mode. This type of activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is key in lowering blood pressure. You can drink all the tea and supplements you want – bottom line is if you’re constantly stressed and wired, your body will respond accordingly.
5. Exercise & Weight Loss
You knew this was going to be on the list – there’s no way around it. Believe me, if I had a magical, natural weight loss pill, I would be a very rich and busy woman. The truth is, the only way to trim the fat is through good old diet and exercise. Excess weight is a huge contributing factor when it comes to a whole slew of conditions, including hypertension. Exercise not only helps with weight loss, it also helps with stress reduction. According to the Canadian Hypertension Education Program, your BP goes down approximately 1 point with every kilogram you lose. Stop making excuses, get outside, and start moving – it’s free.
Here’s another obvious one. You may think you’re helping yourself by passing on those Ms. Vicky’s S&V chips, but most of the sodium in the diet actually comes from processed foods. Things like breads, cheeses, soups, vegetable juice, canned foods, processed meats, etc. Now most people will tell you to read the labels, which is great, if you want your trip to the grocery store to take 5 hours. My rule is simple – eat fresh food, add little to no salt. Stop buying packaged meat. Go to the market as often as you can. And when you do decide to buy something in a package, then have a look at the label and be mindful of how much sodium you’re putting into your body on a daily basis.
There are a whole bunch of diets out there targeted at lowering blood pressure and decreasing weight, such as the DASH diet. I’ve had the most success with the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet. In my opinion, it’s the simplest, and least restrictive. It doesn’t require you to count calories and it encourages you to eat lots of fresh, nutrient dense foods. I’ve also noticed the best compliance with this diet with my patients due to its simplicity, and of course inclusion of red wine.
7. Yoga & Meditation
This is probably one that people (including myself) have the most trouble believing. The evidence is there, and it shows that 6 weeks of yoga can bring down both systolic and diastolic BP by 27 and 16 points respectively! To me, this is mind-blowing. And while we’re on the subject of yoga/meditation/mindfulness, I’d like to point out a correlation that I’ve seen, hands down, with all of my hypertension patients. They all suffer from high blood PRESSURE, and they all feel as though they are under a lot of PRESSURE in their lives. Finances, family, kids, school, deadlines, it really doesn’t matter what the culprit is. The point is that everyone I’ve seen with hypertension has an immense amount of perceived pressure in their lives and once they realize that this is the common denominator, they are better able to help themselves by tackling the problem at its root or by changing their perspective.
I’ve recommended this website to patients who were interested in doing their own guided meditation at home. It’s got several recordings of guided meditations, all with a different purpose and intention and it’s something you can do before bed, on a walk, or even while driving, to bring your body back into a relaxed state.
There you have it, folks. Happy National Blood Pressure Month. Now go out and get yourself some dandelion leaf tea.