Along with dietary / lifestyle interventions to reduce my risk of getting Alzheimer's I've also been looking at ways to keep my blood pressure low. My father passed away from vascular dementia and the two seem intertwined.
Below are my essential tips for Dietary, Lifestyle and Supplement interventions to naturally lower your blood pressure. It's a weighty piece as I've included everything of gleaned from my own personal research. Please share with any loved ones you think may benefit from this advice. I wish I had of known the below information whilst my Dad was alive and well.
Dietary Changes to Lower Blood Pressure:
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure:
- Eat more potassium. Potassium will balance out any sodium from salt in your diet. The best way to up your potassium levels is via the foods you choose to eat. Bananas, Spinach, Almonds, Pistachios, Coconut Water, Avocados, and Edamame (soy beans) are all great sources. I've taken to blending up a small piece of banana, with spinach, coconut water, avocado and some berries (raspberries, blueberries), and a little dark chocolate in a blender as a daily lunch time smoothie. I also try to sneak edamame into stir fries, curries and stews.
- Cut back on sugar and refined carbs plus any other foods that spike your insulin. Insulin increases sodium retention in the blood, which increases blood volume and pressure. The less insulin sensitive you are (from eating refined carbs and sugary foods over a long period), the more insulin you’ll release in response to a given stimulus, and the more sodium you’ll shuttle into the blood.
- Eat fermented dairy products on a regular basis. Milk fermented with the L. helveticus bacteria has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension in a number of studies. Kefir, aged cheese (Swiss, emmental, pecorino Romano, aged cheddar, and aged parmigiana Reggiano) are all good sources and are great for boosting calcium too (another supplement aside from potassium that balances out any sodium in your diet).
- Reduce your alcohol intake. This can be hard during lockdown - but lowering it will reduce your weight and also lower your blood pressure. The guidance is to keep at 14 standard drinks or less per week. One standard drink = 25ml shot of most standard strength liquor such as gin, rum, whiskey, vodka etc., 1/2 a pint of average strength beer, or a 125 ml glass of wine. There are some really great low alcohol beers on the market - my favourite is this one. I sometimes mix a low alcohol beer with a standard strength one to extend the drinking experience (you end up with a half strength beer around 2-2.5% that still tastes good)!
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine if you are sensitive to it. Try to stick to maximum 2 cups a day of caffeinated beverages if you find you are sensitive to it. You can also switch to a great tasting decaf coffee. The connection between coffee consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods may exacerbate your condition. My dad used to drink around 5-6 cups a day of instant coffee which I'm sure never helped his blood pressure!
- Eat more oily fish. Studies have shown that DHA (in particular) is very effective at reducing blood pressure. You can either take a supplement to get this benefit, or eat oily fish three times a week. Just be sure to check the source of the fish so as to avoid mercury. Farmed salmon, Atlantic mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and trout are great low mercury choices. Low Benzopyrene Bonito Flakes are also a great way to sneak in extra fish into your diet.
- Load up on high Nitrate Veg. Your body converts nitrate (NO3) found in beetroot juice and other vegetables into bioactive nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO), the latter of which helps relax and dilate your blood vessels. Vegetables high in NO3 include: Spinach (also high in potassium), Beetroot, Radishes, Kale, Celery, Mustard greens, Turnip tops, Cabbage, Eggplant, Leeks & Scallions (both also great probiotics for your gut bacteria), String beans, and Carrots.
- Take 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil Daily. In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil that had no such effect before. The polyphenols in olive oil seem to release nitric oxide, which (we can see in the aforementioned point) is known to lower blood pressure. A daily intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often may reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function (widening of the arteries and maintaining their flexibility). Buy the best olive oil you can afford as not all are created equal.
Supplements to lower your blood pressure:
- Address the stress! Stress might be the biggest trigger for hypertension. We can’t really escape it entirely, so we have to figure out how to deal with it. I meditate daily for 20-25 minutes which to me is like having a shower for my brain. I just sit there and count to 8 whilst breathing deeply into my tummy and then exhaling for a count of 8 (this way I get in my deep breathing exercises too which also lowers blood pressure). You meditate for as little as 10-15 minutes a day and see a huge benefit. My wife hates sitting still so would prefer to go for a walk. Yet others find knitting does the trick or colouring in. Find what works for you and make it a habit. Getting back to my Dad - he seemed like he was constantly going to blow a gasket over little things. My brother used to ask him when they first spoke - what's worrying you today Dad? Inevitably there was something (-:
- Exercise regularly. Endurance exercise, strength training, high-intensity interval training and simply moving around more during the day (outside of a distinct exercise period) have all been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure.
- Look after your sleep. Both short sleep duration and poor sleep quality increase the risk that you’ll develop high blood pressure. Correcting sleep apnea has also been shown to reduce blood pressure. Additionally poor sleep increases your insulin resistance meaning you pump out more for the same effect (which then leads to higher blood pressure via more sodium being shuttled into the blood ). If you are tired you are more likely to reach for sugary foods for energy which pack on the weight and lead to more insulin resistance - it's a vicious cycle. See here for improving your sleep naturally.
- Lose weight. Excess body fat can raise blood pressure, and reducing it can also lower blood pressure. If you are slimmer you are also less likely to snore at night and have longer and more restful sleep.
- Get out in the sun for a bit. Exposure to ultraviolet light (via sunshine or tanning beds) also increases Nitric Oxide (NO). As shown above in the section on high nitrate veg - NO is a powerful vasodilator; it helps our blood vessels to relax, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Just don't over-do it with the sunshine (as it can lead to skin cancer) - 20-30 minutes a day in moderate heat is sufficient. You'll also be getting a dose of vitamin D.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your heartbeat, raises your blood pressure and causes your blood to clot. A clot can block the blood flow to your heart, cutting off its oxygen supply and eventually damaging a part of its muscle. Smokers have a higher risk of atherosclerosis, a disease wherein the plaque liquids build up in the arteries. As time progresses, this will cause your arteries to harden and narrow, which will limit the flow of oxygen-filled blood to other parts of your body.
- Extra Omega 3's (especially DHA). It can sometimes be hard to regularly eat oily fish 3 times a week. We live in the real world where kids don't always want to eat fish and we are too busy to cook two different meals! I take this algae form of omega 3 daily to top up my levels and I give it to my wife and two daughters also. The reasons I choose algae omega 3 over fish oils can be found here. The main reason is that algae oils are cleaner and fresher (not rancid like most fish oils). I buy this brand of Algae Oil (the one with both EPA and DHA)
- Magnesium (take before bed) - Magnesium’s effect on blood pressure is magnified when combined with increased potassium intake. In fact, increasing potassium and magnesium intake together while moderately reducing sodium intake can lower blood pressure as much as a single medication. I've mentioned it before - I take 10-12 sprays rubbed into my arms before bed of this brand of BetterYou magnesium spray. It helps me sleep very deeply, and wake refreshed. It has also completely stopped the racing heart I use to wake with in the middle of the night when consuming alcohol in the lead up to bed time.
- Zinc - Zinc is an essential nutrient for regulating the nitric oxide synthase system in the body. Without adequate zinc, your ability to produce nitric oxide—which increases blood vessel dilation and thus regulates blood pressure—is hampered. It's hard to get enough zinc from dietary sources alone - unless you are lucky enough to have a ready source of oysters and crab, or you regularly or stack your plate high with red meat. As a vegan or vegetarian it is notoriously difficult. So a Zinc supplement may be a good choice or take a top-notch multivitamin that has zinc in it.
- Vitamin D3 with K2 - It’s a long-known fact that vitamin D deficiency is associated with both arterial stiffness and hypertension. A large-scale genetic study involving over 155,000 individuals has found that low vitamin D levels can actually cause hypertension. Not only that, the highest vitamin D levels were shown to lower hypertension risk the most. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, so knowing your vitamin levels and keeping them at a healthy 40 ng/ml is an important strategy for controlling blood pressure. The best way to increase your Vitamin D levels is via sunlight but this is not always possible in northern areas of Europe and USA and also may not be possible in a busy life. Dietary sources include salmon, sardines and eggs. You may also need to top up with a liposomal multi vitamin containing both D3 and K2 to aid absorption further.
- CoQ10 - Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that plays an important role in protecting the heart. Levels of CoQ10 decrease with age and are lower in patients with diseases that are characterized by inflammation and oxidative stress, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. At doses of 100–225 mg per day, CoQ10 reduces systolic blood pressure by 15 mgHg and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mgHg. CoQ10 is fat soluble, which means it’s best to take with meals that contain fat.
- Garlic - Clinical trials have shown that long-acting garlic supplements have a modest but significant impact on blood pressure in people with high blood pressure, with an average reduction of 8.4 mmHg (systolic) and 7.3 mmHg (diastolic). Approximately 10,000 units of allicin (one of the active ingredients in garlic)—the amount contained in about 4 cloves of garlic—is required to have the desired effect.
- Vitamin C - has been shown to modestly reduce blood pressure and improve arterial health in clinical studies. This is especially true for people who are low in vitamin C to begin with. Liposomal forms of vitamin C (like in this liposomal multivitamin) are much better absorbed than typical oral preparations.
- Nattokinase - Nattokinase is an enzyme found in the food natto, a fermented soy product. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study showed that supplementing with nattokinase (2,000 FU/Capsule) for eight weeks resulted in significant reduction of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.