Taking Care of Your Heart: High Blood Pressure

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February is Heart awareness month and a wonderful time to start thinking of taking care of your heart. Start with thinking about your blood pressure, the following will help you and those you love know your blood pressure and if it is high, making control the goal.

Make Control Your Goal

If you know you have high blood pressure, take these steps to help get it under control:

  • Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Set a goal to lower your pressure with your doctor and talk about how you can reach your goal. Work with your health care team to make sure you meet that goal. Track your blood pressure over time. One way to do that is with this free wallet card from Million Hearts:registered:.
  • Take your blood pressure medicine as directed. Set a timer on your phone to remember to take your medicine at the same time each day. If you are having trouble taking your medicines on time or paying for your medicines, or if you are having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
  • Quit smoking—and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. You can find tips and resources at CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco website.
  • Reduce sodium intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Read about ways to reduce your sodium and visit the Million Hearts:registered: Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center for heart-healthy, lower-sodium recipes, meal plans, and helpful articles.

Man to Man: Heart to Heart

Roosevelt, a long-time smoker, had a heart attack at age 45. He endured six surgeries, including heart bypass surgery to fix the damage to his heart caused by smoking. Now smoke-free, Roosevelt encourages others to quit smoking as a way to reduce their risk of heart disease.

“A heart attack feels like a hand inside squeezing your heart,” he said. “It’s like the worst Charley horse you can imagine—in your heart.”

About 1 in 5 African American adults smokes cigarettes.5 CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign recently shined a spotlight on this statistic and the links between smoking and heart disease among African American men.

“If you have loved ones who care about you, they will support you. Take it one day at a time,” Roosevelt said.

This approach can work not only for people who want to quit smoking, but for those who are trying to eat better, exercise, and control their high blood pressure—all ways to help reduce the chances of heart attack and stroke. A strong support systemalso helps.

Traditional  Treatments

There are many ways to treat high blood pressure, including lifestyle changes and/or medications. If you are interested in turning to traditional treatments for lowering your blood pressure, you have many options.

Ayurveda

Avoid foods with high fat content like fried foods, ice cream, heavy meats, cheese and yogurt.

Walk two miles per day.

Meditiate 10-20 minutes a day

Drink ginger tea

Drink orange juice mixed with coconut water (2 parts oj to 1 part coconut) Drink a 1/2 – 1 cup 2-3 times per day.

Add 1 tsp coriander and 1 pinch cardamom to freshly squeezed peach juice. Drink 2-3 times per day to help with high blood pressure.

Add a tsp of honey and 5-10 drops of apple cider vinegar to a cup of hot water and drink early each morning.

Eat thesr cholesterol reducing foods (preferably organic) EVERYDAY:

  • oatmeal
  • corn
  • apples
  • orange/grapefruit juice
  • millet
  • fresh vegetables

Herbs and Supplements

If you are thinking of trying herbs for medical reasons, whether that means using the whole herb or a supplement, speak to your doctor first. Some herbs, especially in large quantities, may produce undesirable side effects or interfere with other medications.

Basil

Basil is a delicious herb that goes well in a variety of foods. It also might help lower your blood pressure. Extract of basil has been shown to lower blood pressure, although only briefly. Adding fresh basil to your diet is easy and certainly can’t hurt. Keep a small pot of the herb in your kitchen garden and add the fresh leaves to pastas, soups, salads, and casseroles.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another tasty seasoning that requires little effort to include in your daily diet, and it may bring your blood pressure numbers down. Consuming cinnamon every day has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with diabetes. Include more cinnamon in your diet by sprinkling it on your breakfast cereal, oatmeal, and even in your coffee. At dinner, cinnamon enhances the flavor of stir-fries, curries, and stews.

Cardamom

Cardamom is a seasoning that comes from India and is often used in the foods of South Asia. A study investigating the health effects of cardamom found that participants given powdered cardamom daily for several months saw significant reductions in their blood pressure readings. You can include cardamom seeds or the powder in spice rubs, in soups and stews, and even in baked goods for a special flavor and a positive health benefit.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to lower blood pressure significantly. Flaxseed may protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease by reducing serum cholesterol, improving glucose tolerance and acting as an antioxidant. You can buy many products that contain flaxseed, but a better bet is to buy ground flaxseed or grind it yourself in a coffee grinder and add it to your home cooked meals. The best part about flaxseed is that it can be stirred into virtually any dish, from soups to smoothies to baked goods. Store flaxseed in your freezer for optimum potency.

Garlic

This pungent seasoning can do more than just flavor your food and ruin your breath. Garlic has the ability to lower your blood pressure by causing your blood vessels to relax and dilate. This lets blood flow more freely and reduces blood pressure.

Ginger

Ginger may help control blood pressure, as it has been shown to improve blood circulation and relax the muscles surrounding blood vessels. Commonly used in Asian foods, ginger is a very versatile ingredient that can also be used in sweets or beverages. Chop, mince, or grate fresh ginger into stir-fries, soups, and noodle or vegetable dishes, or add it to desserts or tea for a refreshing taste.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is an herbal remedy for high blood pressure that has been used in traditional Chinese medicines for thousands of years. Decoctions of hawthorn seem to have a whole host of benefitson cardiovascular health, including reduction of blood pressure, the prevention of clot formation, and an increase in blood circulation. You can take hawthorn as a pill, a liquid extract, or a tea.

Celery Seed

Celery seed is an herb used to flavor soups, stews, casseroles, and other savory dishes. Celery has been long used to treat hypertension in China, but studies also show that it may be effective. You can use the seeds to lower blood pressure, but you can also juice the whole plant. Celery is a diuretic, which may help explain its effect on blood pressure.

French Lavender

The beautiful, perfume-like scent of lavender is not the only useful aspect of the plant. Oil of lavender has long been used as a perfume ingredient and also to induce relaxation. The herb may also lower your blood pressure. Although not many people think to use lavender as a culinary herb, you can use the flowers in baked goods and the leaves can be used in the same way you would use rosemary.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s claw is an herbal medicine used in traditional Chinese practice to treat hypertension as well as neurological health problems. Studies of cat’s claw as a treatment for hypertension indicate that it may be helpful in reducing blood pressure by acting on calcium channels in your cells. You can get cat’s claw in supplement form from many health food stores.

Takeaway

Due to its lack of symptoms, high blood pressure can inflict damage before you are even aware you have it, so don’t neglect regular blood pressure screenings. Sometimes treating this condition involves medication. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you. It’s also important to discuss any herbs or supplements with your doctor before taking any. Additionally, don’t stop taking any prescribed medications without speaking with your healthcare provider.

This American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Million Hearts:registered:–a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017–are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it’s high, to make control their goal.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure.1 People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.2

High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It’s easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor’s office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home, using a home blood pressure monitor.

Resources to Help You and Your Loved Ones Make Control the Goal

More information about high blood pressure is available at CDC’s High Blood Pressure website. In addition, the following resources are available to help you and your loved ones make control your goal:

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References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: awareness and treatment of uncontrolled hypertension among adults—United States, 2003–2010.MMWR. 2012;61(35):703-9.
  2. Stamler J, Stamler R, Neaton JD. Blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, and cardiovascular risks. US population data. Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:598-615. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: awareness and treatment of uncontrolled hypertension among adults—United States, 2003–2010.MMWR. 2012;61(35):703-9.
    2 Stamler J, Stamler R, Neaton JD. Blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, and cardiovascular risks. US population data. Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:598-615.
  3. CDC, Prevalence of hypertension and controlled hypertension — United States, 2007-2010. MMWR. 2013;62(03);144-148,.
  4. Yang Q, Zhong Y, Ritchey M, et al. Predicted 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease at the state level in the U.S.” Am J Prev Med. 2014;48(1):58-69. PubMed abstract.
  5. CDC, Current cigarette smoking among adults—United States, 2005-2012. MMWR. 2014;63(2).
  6. Wall, H., Hannah, J., & Wright, J. (2014). Patients with undiagnosed hypertension: Hiding in plain sight. Journal of the American Medical Association, 312(19), 1973–1974.
  7. Healthline, Herbs to lower blood pressure, http://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/herbs-to-lower

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