There is a reason that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the silent killer. It affects roughly one third of all adults in the United States – a total of 67 million people. For something so common, it is remarkable how frequently it goes undiagnosed. When it is left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to some very serious, life-threatening conditions.
Like so many of the so-called lifestyle disease, high blood pressure can often be controlled by making some simple changes in the way you live. But before we talk about the 15 superfoods that can lower your high blood pressure, let’s talk a little bit about the specifics of the disease.
Causes and Treatments of High Blood Pressure
One of the scariest things about high blood pressure is that, except in very rare cases, there are no symptoms. Most people who have undiagnosed high blood pressure have no idea they have it. The lack of symptoms does not mean that having high blood pressure doesn’t have an effect on your body, though. When it is not properly treated, it can cause very serious diseases, including coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.
Your blood pressure is a measurement of the force your blood exerts upon your blood vessels as it moves through your body. Typically, blood pressure consists of two numbers. Your systolic blood pressure measures the pressure of as your heart pumps blood; and your diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure when your heart is at rest. Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day. It tends to be lowers when you are resting or asleep, and higher during periods of activity, stress or excitement. Blood pressure readings are usually presented with the systolic number first, followed by the diastolic number (120/80.) Anything higher than 140/90 is considered to be high blood pressure.
Most blood pressure does not have a discernible cause. It develops slowly over time. However, in certain cases high blood pressure may develop secondary to another condition. Some examples include alcohol abuse, kidney and adrenal gland problems, illegal drug use, and sleep apnea.
While there is a chance that anybody can develop high blood pressure, there are certain things that make it more likely:
- Age (older people are more prone to get it)
- Race (African-Americans get high blood pressure more than other races)
- Family history
- Excessive sodium in the diet
- Deficiencies of Vitamin D or potassium
Treatments for high blood pressure vary. Some people respond well to making simple dietary and lifestyle changes, while others require medication to bring their blood pressure down to safe levels. Some treatment options include:
- Thiazide diuretics are drugs that help your body to get rid of excess water and sodium, thus reducing your overall blood volume and lowering your blood pressure
- Beta blockers are a class of drugs that help to widen your blood vessels, making it easier for the blood to flow
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help to relax the walls of your blood vessels and may be particularly effective for people with kidney disease
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) block the action of a chemical that narrows your blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers relax the muscles around your blood vessels, and are an effective treatment for older patients
- Renin inhibitors slow down your body’s production of renin, an enzyme produced in your kidneys that can set off a chain reaction that raises blood pressure
Like all prescription drugs, these medications all have potentially serious side effects. For that reason, it is worth trying to control your diabetes through diet.
The Superfoods That Lower High Blood Pressure
Now that you understand the importance of controlling your high blood pressure with diet, let’s take a look at 15 superfood that can help.
In addition to adding these superfoods to your diet, it is also important to do other things to fight high blood pressure. Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet by steering clear of processed foods, and make sure to get exercise on a regular basis. If you do these things, you can get your blood pressure under control without the use of prescription medications.