Whenever you go in for a checkup your doctor will always do two things: 1) Ask you to step on the scale and 2) take your blood pressure. Most of us understand what weight means and when we should make a change, but not everyone understands what blood pressure is, what it means when it’s high and what you can do to lower it.
Your heart pumps blood throughout your body to give it energy and oxygen. As the blood travels it exerts a certain force on the inner walls of the vessels. This force is your blood pressure and is measured in two numbers: systolic and diastolic.
- Systolic – The top number on the reading measures the pressure in the arteries (carries blood away from the heart) when the heart muscle contracts.
- Diastolic – The bottom number on the reading measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats or contractions.
The ideal or normal reading is slightly less than or equal to 120/80. An individual is considered prehypertension (pre-high blood pressure) if the measurement is between 120-139 for systolic and 80-89 for diastolic. Any systolic reading over 140 and diastolic over 100 is considered hypertensive; anything over 180/110 is considered critical.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure means there is more force on the arteries and this excessive force results in a stretching and expanding of the arterial tissue and causes issues such as:
- Vascular damage – Due to the high pressure and subsequent stretching, blood vessels can become weak and potentially rupture which leads to a stroke.
- Increased blood clot risk – The risk of blood clots is higher which can lead to a blockage and even a heart attack or stroke.
- Cardiomegaly (heart enlargement) – Because the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body the left ventricle thickens/stiffens resulting in heart enlargement and increases the risk of a heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac death.
- Heart failure – The constant strain on the heart can cause it to weaken making it unable to function properly.
Unfortunately, the damage doesn’t stop there. High blood pressure can negatively impact other organs and parts of the body such as,
Additionally, high blood pressure can lead to sexual dysfunction and sleep disturbances.
Treating High Blood Pressure
The most common treatment prescribed for individuals suffering from hypertension is to eat a healthier diet full of fruit and vegetables and low on sodium, as well as engaging in physical activity. Other forms of “treatment” include,
- Losing or maintaining a healthy weight
- Lowering stress
- Quitting or avoiding tobacco
- Limiting or abstaining from alcohol consumption
These lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure and lead to an overall healthier life, but sometimes your blood pressure needs a little more attention than that. Instead of turning to medication, speak to your doctor about certain vitamins/supplements that can help, i.e. potassium and magnesium.
Potassium and Blood Pressure
Potassium is a mineral naturally found in most foods and is vital to proper bodily function. This includes the regulation of blood pressure because potassium combats the negative effects of salt/sodium.
St. George’s Medical School in London published an article that tracked the blood pressure benefits of potassium in its different forms (chloride and citrate), both of which showed promising results.
Potassium can be increased by eating certain foods including,
- Green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
Magnesium and Blood Pressure
Potassium isn’t the only mineral known to lower blood pressure. Magnesium, another mineral, has also shown promise in lowering blood pressure levels. A study was done on the efficacy of magnesium and hypertension in which researchers gathered 155 individuals to participate in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial in which the participants were given either magnesium or a placebo for a total of 12 weeks. Initially there was no significant difference, but when the researchers observed the hypertensive individuals they saw a significant decrease in the blood pressure readings of the group given magnesium.
Magnesium can also be found in various foods:
- Whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables
Potassium and Magnesium: Food Source or Supplement
If you suffer from hypertension and are looking for a way to lower your blood pressure, you may be trying to decide if you should simply increase your dietary intake of these minerals or if you should opt for a supplement. The blog post, To Supplement or Not to Supplement, will give you a clear understanding of the shortcomings and factors that are involved in doing strictly diet and why it may be necessary to try supplementing.
When searching for a supplement to fit your needs, consider HoltraCeuticals’ BP Calm which includes both potassium and magnesium as well as other compounds shown to help lower blood pressure.
The best approach to lowering your blood pressure is a well-rounded one which includes all of the options listed above: diet, exercise and supplementation.