The numbers are sobering: around 70 million Americans (that’s 29%) and 7.5 million Canadians (and 21%) live with high blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, including the chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack. It’s reported that 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack already have high blood pressure.
Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers
It’s important to know what your blood pressure numbers mean so that they can be monitored and managed well. Your blood pressure is represented by two numbers: the top systolic number is the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom diastolic number is your blood pressure when the heart rests between beats.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association specify that high blood pressure is a result of a systolic pressure of 140 or higher and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher and where both numbers stay high over time. Pre-hypertension is when you have a systolic pressure of 120 to 139 and/or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. Normal blood pressure is considered to be a systolic pressure of 120 or lower and/or a diastolic pressure of 80 or lower.
8 Natural Remedies for Lowering Blood Pressure
Unfortunately, managing high blood pressure can be expensive. The cost of prescription medication, dietary requirements and missed days of work add up. To offset this cost, many people are looking to home remedies and foods to lower blood pressure.
Talia Marcheggiani, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Ontario has witnessed the trend firsthand. “For many, lifestyle and dietary changes as well as nutritional supplementation is an effective strategy for managing mild to moderate hypertension and preventing cardiovascular disease — while also avoiding the side effects of some medications,” she says. “I’m seeing it more and more; older adults want to find natural ways to take charge of their health and prevent disease.”
Now, we’re not advocating you completely ditch your meds and switch to beet juice. Some studies do suggest natural remedies for high blood pressure can bring down systolic levels. These include:
1. Virgin coconut oil — lipid-lowering powers
Virgin coconut oil has quickly reached super food status; it’s widely touted for its antioxidant content and its benefits on the cardiovascular system even though it’s 90% saturated fat (other common sources of saturated fat include meat, butter, cheese and full-fat dairy products).
It’s reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and lipid-lowering powers. Lipids, or fats, processed by the liver include cholesterol and triglycerides, both of which can pose problems for cardiovascular health if unmanaged. Virgin coconut oil (not the refined variety) has also been found to boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — that’s the healthy one.
Although researchers acknowledge that more testing is required to gain a better understanding of the findings, virgin coconut oil shows promising signs in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
2. Coconut water — calms nerves
Coconut water contains potassium, which is good for calming the nerves. In fact, research shows that coconut water may lower blood pressure levels as much as 71%. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all coconut waters are created equal — some are packed with sugar and other additives. Look for brands such as Vita Coco and Zico, which are made of 100% coconut water.
3. Mauby — decreases systolic pressure
Mauby bark is popular in the Caribbean and has been shown to decrease systolic pressure by as much as 40%. You can generally find it in the ethnic foods section of supermarkets, and it’s also available for purchase online. Boil the bark down with water and sweeten with anise, sugar and cinnamon. You can also mix mauby tea with coconut water to make a potent tea.
4. Beets — packed with dietary nitrite
Not only can this root vegetable be eaten, research shows that drinking one cup of beet root juice daily can reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, the principal cause of increasing systolic pressure. In the body, dietary nitrate in beets is converted to nitric oxide (something that tends to deplete as we age) and evidence suggests that nitric oxide plays a major role in regulating blood pressure.
5. Pistachios — a source of heart-healthy fats
Among nuts, pistachios contain the highest levels of antioxidants, along with other heart-friendly nutrients, such as potassium and magnesium. Pistachios also lower systolic blood pressure. It’s reported that people who consume nuts and tree nuts in particular — such as pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts — have fewer risks for metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
6. Asparagus — a natural diuretic
Known as the king of vegetables in Germany, asparagus is good for our brains, iron intake and blood pressure. Asparagus, thanks to the amino acid, asparagine, helps rid our bodies of fluids, flushing out compounds such as salts in the process. Those diuretic benefits help keep blood pressure in check.
7. Coffee and alcohol – limit your consumption
If you have high blood pressure, it may be time to make the switch to decaf. A new study by London, Ontario’s Western University, in conjunction with the Lawson Health Research Institute, has uncovered that even an occasional cup of coffee might adversely affect blood pressure test results and reduce the effectiveness of some blood pressure medication.
Modifying the amount of alcohol you consume can also prevent high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day and men to two drinks per day.
8. Physical activity – move more, sit less
Aim for at least 3 to 4 moderately intense 40-minute workouts per week to control high blood pressure and hypertension. Track your activity each day by wearing a step counter like a FitBit. Monitoring the number of steps you take in a day can motivate you to get moving (the general recommendation is to take 10,000 steps daily.)
Editor’s note: As always, consult with your physician before diving into home remedies for high blood pressure. Foods that lower blood pressure may have certain side effects when used in conjunction with prescription medicine.