By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Not long ago, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) made some changes to their blood pressure guidelines. They were attention-getters, too. I know, because I’ve been fielding a steady stream of questions about them ever since! Most of those questions have been falling into one of two camps: what the changes mean, and what should be done if they affect you. Here’s what I’ve been telling everyone…
What the New Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean
The changes themselves are simple. Basically the ACC and AHA lowered the threshold for what’s considered high blood pressure and when you should treat it. Under the old guidelines, your pressure was normal at 120/80. Once it reached 130/80–89, you were considered “pre-hypertensive,” and at 140/90 you’d probably be put on medication.
Now the pre-hypertension category is gone, and normal blood pressure is actually less than 120/80.
Overall, I have to say I’m okay with these new rules. I almost always encouraged my patients to keep their numbers as low as they could. My bar for healthy blood pressure was a little lower than 120/80—which is right in line with the updated guidelines.
Of course, these changes probably mean a lot of you who used to have “normal” blood pressure are now in the “elevated blood pressure” category.
Don’t worry. Most docs aren’t rushing to prescribe more meds. Instead, they’re more strongly recommending lifestyle changes that will keep blood pressure readings low—a move I’m behind 1,000 percent!
Blood pressure is highly responsive to lifestyle changes, particularly in the early stages where these guidelines are focused. So even if your numbers are a little on the high side now, you still have a lot of control over your situation.
The Most Effective Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
When I was seeing patients, I had considerable success helping people reduce their medication dosages—or avoid taking blood pressure drugs altogether—with daily habits that are part of a high vibrational lifestyle.
I’ll be the first to tell you, they can work for you, too. So, if you’re in need of a little extra motivation to fully adopt this way of living, use this to get yourself over the hump!
Here are some of the nuts and bolts:
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The absolute best way to lower blood pressure is by being more mindful of what you eat—specifically, by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet like PAMM.
PAMM is short for my Pan Asian Modified Mediterranean diet plan. I love it because it helps prevent a major cause of high blood pressure: inflammation. Long-term, unchecked inflammation leads to plaque buildup and overall stiffening of the arteries, two major issues in high blood pressure. The more you can reduce the levels of inflammation in your body, the better you’ll be able to control your numbers.
PAMM foods help you in two ways. One, they’re loaded with antioxidant nutrients that neutralize the free radicals driving the inflammatory process. Two, the diet eliminates many of the foods notorious for causing inflammation in the first place, like sugar and bad fats.
Another benefit—unrelated to inflammation—is that PAMM includes a lot of foods that help improve blood flow, like the omega-3 fats found in fatty fish. The easier blood flows, the lower your pressure tends to be.
Manage Your Stress Level
I strongly believe that stress is as much a “silent killer” as high blood pressure. When we’re tense, our fight-or-flight response floods the body with hormones that constrict blood vessels and make blood “stickier,” so we’re less likely to bleed to death in a fight. The problem is, there’s no real fight when we’re stuck in traffic or having a bad day at work. Still, the effect is that our blood pressure rises, sometimes to dangerous levels. (I’ve known people who have literally given themselves a heart attack by flying into a fit of rage.)
Learning how to manage stress—especially the kind of low- to moderate-grade stress that wears on us every day—is key if you want to reduce blood pressure. Yoga and meditation are great options for this (there’s good research backing up both of them), but it’s most important that you choose something you’ll keep up with. Whether it’s walking, hobbies, or playing with your pets or kids do what fits best with your daily routine.
Earthing (also called “grounding”) connects your body’s electrical system with the natural electrical charge of the Earth. Combined, these energies have some great blood pressure benefits.
For one, they help “rebalance” the stress response. This ensures your body can rest, and that stress hormones don’t stay turned on for too long (a problem for more than just your blood pressure). Earthing also causes the red blood cells in your bloodstream to repel one another and become more slippery, which has a thinning effect. And finally, Earthing provides another dose of antioxidant power. Since the electrical charge from the Earth is mostly negative, and free radicals carry positive charges, Earthing neutralizes free radicals and helps stop the inflammatory process.
Consider Nutritional Supplements
Another option for lowering blood pressure naturally is nutritional supplements. I’ve written in some detail about this in the past, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it right now. But essentially, you want to look for products that promote healthy arterial function and blood flow. In other words, supplements that help reduce inflammation, improve the ability of arteries to relax and dilate, and thin the blood.
Some of my favorites? Coenzyme Q10, nattokinase, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and garlic extract. For more specific direction, check out my article Best Supplements to Lower Blood Pressure.
Steer Clear of Toxins
Finally, take a close look at your environment and the common toxins you have contact with every day. The sea of chemicals we live in is one more factor that drives inflammation, so minimize exposure where you can.
Pay particular attention to the electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) from wifi, mobile phones, and other electronic devices. EMF has been linked to higher levels of stress hormones, which, again, is bad news for blood pressure. It also is known to cause a cellular stress response and increase stress proteins, which may explain why some “electro-hypersensitive” people experience debilitating physical symptoms in the presence of EMF. Bottom line – you don’t have to give up your devices, but you do need to be smart with how you use them.
As wonderful as all these habits are for blood pressure, I love even more that they’re great for every other aspect of your health, too. So while you may be motivated by one problem—your blood pressure—you’ll end up protecting against many more.
References and resources:
- American College of Cardiology. New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension. Acc.org, Nov. 13, 2017.
- Cohen DL et al. Iyengar Yoga versus enhanced usual care on blood pressure in patients with prehypertension to stage I hypertension: a randomized controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:546428.
- Brook RD et al. Beyond medications and diet: Alternative approaches to ing blood pressure. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2013; 61(6):1360-83
- Chevalier G and Sinatra ST. Emotional stress, heart rate variability, grounding, and improved autonomic tone: clinical applications. Integrative Medicine. 2011;10(3):16-21.
- Chevalier G et al. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity—a major factor in cardiovascular disease. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb; 19(2): 102–110.
- Vangelova K , Israel M, Velkova D , and Ivanova M. “Changes in excretion rates of stress hormones in medical staff exposed to electromagnetic radiation.” Environmentalist. Vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 551–555, 2007.
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