What is Healthy Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure measurements represent the force exerted on your arteries when the heart muscle is contracting (systolic pressure, upper number) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure, lower number). A healthy blood pressure is high enough to deliver blood “uphill” to the brain, and low enough that the integrity of the arteries themselves is not compromised. Individual targets vary based on age and medical conditions, but generally a healthy adult blood pressure ranges from 90-120 mm/Hg systolic and 60-80 mm/Hg diastolic. Blood pressure is dynamic, rising and falling throughout the day to meet the needs of the body, but we want to keep it in that sweet healthy range in order to protect important organs like your brain, heart, and kidneys. In some cases, pharmaceuticals are necessary to keep blood pressure in a healthy range, but I find that medications are very often used in isolation without any attention to lifestyle and dietary factors. How to Improve Blood Pressure Naturally Regular aerobic exercise, decreasing stress, and reducing alcohol and tobacco are commonly recommended, but sometimes you need additional support or another approach altogether. Here are my favorite non-pharmaceutical strategies to keep your blood pressure in that sweet spot!
- Reduce dietary sodium to about 1500mg/day. According to the American Heart Association, systolic and diastolic blood pressure can be reduced by more than 5 and 2 mm/Hg respectively for every ~1 tsp reduction in salt intake!
- Eat fresh homemade meals from scratch featuring whole grains, beans, and veggies in all colors of the rainbow. Favor lean meats like chicken and fish over red meat.
- Eat Organic – While research has not established a direct link between ingestion of pesticides and increased blood pressure, consuming pesticides is linked to obesity, which is an independent risk factor for hypertension.
- Isometric exercises for less than one hour per week can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by more than 10 and 6 points respectively. That’s huge! Isometric exercises are simple, don’t make you sweat, and can be done in the home without equipment. See 20+ isometric exercises demonstrated on YouTube here & here. Hold each pose for 5-30 seconds per repetition and always modify as needed for your body. Bonus: isometric exercise is also excellent for bone health!
- Get a good night’s sleep – This subject deserves its own blog, but here are some quick tips from the CDC on making it happen. Sleep disturbance is an independent risk factor for hypertension, but if you snore, have a large neck circumference or feel sleepy during the day, ask your provider about testing for sleep apnea, which also contributes to hypertension when left untreated.
- Transcendental Meditation may lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 4 and 2 mm/Hg respectively and is associated with increased creativity and cognitive function. Yay! More info at TM.org. Gaia Tree members receive $40 off training in the TM technique.
- Herbs & Supplements – Check out my Whole Heart Protocol on Wellevate with nutritional support and traditional herbs for blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Personalized recommendations are available for Gaia Tree members.
Note: If you already have high blood pressure, it is important to continue taking your medications as prescribed and monitor and record your blood pressure at home periodically. Implement a few items from the list above, and work with your prescriber to safely reduce medications over time as your readings improve. ~~~The truth is that everyone is unique. The path to healthy blood pressure – as with so many things – will be slightly different for each person. In my practice, I work closely with clients to develop individualized treatment plans with unlimited office visits, telehealth, and texting. No matter how much support you need from me to achieve your goals, it is all covered in your affordable monthly membership. No surprises. More info and join at GaiaTreeMed.com