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Dr Douglas Street: Lowering blood pressure naturally

Published:Tuesday | December 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The practice of medicine is primarily focused on what the health-care system and practitioners can do for the patient and not so much what they can do for themselves. Hypertension is a very common illness, and there are many decisions we can make that can reduce the risk of developing hypertension and reducing blood pressure.

Chronic low-grade inflammation, diet and lifestyle choices, genetics, and stress are factors that seem to influence the development of hypertension and its complications. By curtailing as many of these factors as possible, the risk of development of hypertension may be reduced.

Hypertension runs in families. We cannot change our genes, but we can check our blood pressure regularly to see if our blood pressure is getting higher, especially if it's in our family.

Chronic low-grade hypertension has been found to contribute to the development of hypertension as well as other chronic illnesses like diabetes, high cholesterol, and arthritis. Some of this inflammation may come from allergies and imbalanced microbiome (normal flora). Optimising these two factors may help in reducing blood pressure.

Diet plays a very big role in reducing blood pressure. Some useful measures include reducing salt intake to one teaspoon daily; reducing the amount of foods from animals (preferably eliminating them), increasing the amount of unprocessed foods from plants; having nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and limiting or avoiding intake of alcohol, tobacco, and coffee. Some foods that have been shown to be particularly helpful are potato, beet, soy, legumes, banana, garlic, peppers, probiotics, and whole grains.

Lifestyle changes that have been shown to be helpful in reducing blood pressure include optimising weight, getting adequate sleep, not overworking, getting fresh air, drinking adequate water (10 12 eight-ounce glasses), exercising and getting healthy, sunshine. BMI should be under 30 and even better under 25. We should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night preferably starting by about 9:30 p.m. We should work about 40 hours per week with at least one day of rest. Exercise should be done for about 30 minutes for about five days weekly.

Stress may have short- and long-term impact on blood pressure. The long-term impact may be because of changes in the microbiome. Stress may be reduced by proper planning, relaxation techniques, having a supportive network, and having a healthy belief system.

Various supplements have also been shown to be helpful.