Blood Pressure and Preventative Nutrition.
How preventative nutrition, dietary and lifestyle habits may have a positive affect on your blood pressure.
By Nicki Di Gravina, Registered Holistic Nutritionist | April 2023
Preventive nutrition | Dietary and lifestyle habits on blood pressure health.
Life and the pressures of today can influence your choices and daily habits. Coping with and reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can impact your overall health and put you at risk for high blood pressure. In Canada, about 1 in 5 adults, seven and half million people live with hypertension1. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood flowing through our blood vessels, and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can put a strain on our heart, leading to potential health problems down the road. High blood pressure develops due to several factors as do most chronic diseases. It can run in the family but it also is dependent on lifestyle and nutritional factors such as stress, not being physically active, tobacco use, too much alcohol and an unhealthy diet. The good news is that there are a variety of ways to manage blood pressure, and most of these risk factors are within your control. Preventative nutritional strategies like consuming nutrient dense supportive foods, as well as preventative lifestyle strategies are effective measures that can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, thus helping improve your overall cardiovascular health.
If you notice that being under stress may be causing you to experience an increase in blood pressure, and/or if you’re reaching for tobacco in times of stress more often than not, then it’s time to consider integrating key preventative lifestyle measures into your everyday life such as:
- Reducing and avoiding tobacco is essential because nicotine is a toxin that can raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for future heart related issues.
- Regular exercise can help lower and bring blood pressure down to safer levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day2. You can include a variety of activities like yoga and weight training. Yoga with breathwork and meditation have been shown to help reduce blood pressure, as well as weight training 2 times per week, however if you’re new to weight training, consult your doctor to ensure this would be appropriate for your current state of health.
- Sleep. During sleep is when the body’s cells work to repair the body which is why sleep hygiene is a significant factor to blood pressure management. Regular lack of sleep may lead to high blood pressure and if you already have high blood pressure, not sleeping well may make your blood pressure worse. There’s a number of things we can do before bed to help us sleep better such as avoiding caffeine approximately 4 hours before bed; avoiding technology 1-2 hours before bed; avoid eating too much too late as this can disrupt sleep; do things to relax: take a bath, read, stretch and/or meditate; make your bedroom comfortable and ensure it’s not too warm, try to stick to a schedule and stay consistent including on the weekends, when possible.
One of the best natural ways to help lower blood pressure is through an improved diet. Some foods can contribute to high blood pressure.
Foods and beverages to avoid:
- Trans fats found in processed and packaged foods, commercially baked and fried foods, margarine etc. can cause inflammation and a build up in the arteries which can lead to high blood pressure.
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners in processed and prepackaged foods, as well as sweetened beverages can increase insulin levels which activates the sympathetic nervous system, and can lead to increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
- High sodium foods such as processed and canned foods, and an excess in sodium intake can cause a rise in blood pressure. Other symptoms that you may experience when consuming too much salt include: headache, increased thirst and swelling in hands and/ feet.
- Alcohol can contribute to narrowing of the arteries which can lead to increased blood pressure. According to the latest research, even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to blood pressure and the heart. Alcohol consumption can lead to elevated blood pressure in the short-term and hypertension in the long term without any safe level or protective effects.
- Caffeine can cause an increase in blood pressure. Reduce your daily consumption of coffee and beverages high in caffeine to help lower blood pressure.
Consuming a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is an effective way to help reduce high blood pressure. The Mediterranean and DASH Diet, as well as other essential nutrients to enjoy, can help manage high blood pressure.
Diet plans and foods to enjoy:
- The Mediterranean diet is made up of traditional foods consumed in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (France, Spain, Greece, and Italy). It encourages a variety of nutrient-dense foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats, as well as poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt to be eaten in moderation. Foods to limit: added sugar, refined grains, trans fats, refined oils, processed meat, and processed foods.
- The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an eating plan rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. Limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.
- High Fiber foods such as fruit (blueberries and strawberries), vegetables (celery, garlic, onions, leafy greens and broccoli). Beans, nuts (almonds) and seeds (pumpkin and sesame) are essential to any healthy diet, especially to help lower blood pressure.
- Omega-3 rich foods like wild caught salmon, chia seeds and flax seeds can help to reduce inflammation.
- Potassium rich foods like coconut water, avocados and bananas can help to control blood pressure as it can help lower the negative effects that sodium can have on the body.
What we consume is a key factor in our heart health and it’s worth prioritizing this day to day. Eating a well-balanced diet on a regular basis will not only support blood pressure health but can also help improve overall health and wellbeing.
Improving digestion, addressing dysbiosis and gut imbalances by supporting your gut microbiome with a nutrient rich diet is another aspect of nutritional prevention. This is because poor gut health can contribute to inflammation and potentially impact blood pressure levels.
Another natural way to support your blood pressure health is with bioactive marine peptides. A therapeutic dose of 1200 mg of unique bioactive marine peptides derived from cold-water shrimp shells (Pandalus borealis) has been clinically proven to help maintain a healthy blood pressure*. Additional supportive supplements that may help promote healthy blood pressure levels are Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin D. Always consult your primary health care provider before making any changes to your lifestyle, nutrition, supplementation or blood pressure management plan.
Preventative nutrition, dietary and lifestyle habits are all important factors to maintaining healthy blood pressure. Focusing on what’s in your control by integrating various preventative lifestyle and nutritional strategies. Take steps to avoid tobacco, exercising, and improve sleep hygiene. Also avoid foods that put you at higher risk to develop high blood pressure and enjoy a healthy whole food diet. Include these preventative strategies daily to take advantage of the positive effect this will have on your blood pressure, thus improving your overall cardiovascular health.
*International Journal or Hypertension, Article 2345042.
Nicki Di Gravina is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is also an Ayurveda practitioner and Art therapist. You can learn more at feedforlove.com and on social media under her handle @feedforlove.
Always consult with your health care provider before making changes to your blood pressure management plan. PreCardix® does not treat, cure or prevent medical conditions. Measure and monitor blood pressure regularly. Know the signs of heart attack and stroke. Do not take PreCardix® if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have renal artery stenosis, history of angioneurotic edema or shellfish allergy.
Mayo Clinic, 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication