How to Get Hypertension Under Control

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

May 22nd, 2019

Have you been diagnosed with hypertension? If you are struggling with high blood pressure, you might be apprehensive about taking medication* to lower the numbers. After all, many prescriptions come with a long list side effects—including dizziness, insomnia, constipation, diarrhea, and headaches, to name a few. If your blood pressure is mildly to moderately high—more than 120/80, but less than 140/90—your doctor may be recommending lifestyle changes before starting medications.

Why every Canadian needs to be concerned about hypertension

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. High blood pressure—also called hypertension—is a common medical concern. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 6 million Canadians have high blood pressure, but about 1 in 6 Canadians don’t even know it. A sometimes silent issue, left untreated, hypertension can lead to a host of chronic diseases, including coronary artery disease, dementia, and heart and kidney failure. It is a big deal.

Here are some ways, both common and less known, to lower your blood pressure naturally.

Lose weight

Rising scales and rising blood pressure seem to go hand in hand. Being overweight or obese comes with a host of health issues, including hypertension.

One of the most effective ways to curb high blood pressure is shed those extra kilograms. Even a small amount of weight loss can make a huge difference when it comes to controlling hypertension. You’ll sleep better, feel better, and best of all, lower your blood pressure without turning to prescriptions too!

Exercise regularly

Living a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to hypertension. If you have elevated blood pressure, regular physical activities can bring the numbers down to more manageable level.

There is a wide variety of low impact cardiovascular and strength training exercises that can have a major impact on lowering blood pressure, such as walking, dancing, cycling, swimming, and yoga. If you have been inactive for awhile, start slowly and gradually build up your intensity and duration of activity. You may find it helpful for both injury-prevention and motivation to seek the help of a trainer, especially if you have a history of injury and/or pain.

Limit alcohol

While the occasional drink won’t likely cause hypertension, excess alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure. Even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can elevate levels.

Eat a healthy diet

Healthy eating is instrumental if you have hypertension. Make sure to add a lot of fruits, vegetables, and, fibre to your diet. Cutting back on salt is also a common recommendation, as many studies have linked hypertension to excessive salt intake and many processed foods are salt-laden. Not everyone, however, is sensitive to salt, and some argue that sea salt—with its array of minerals—actually lowers high blood pressure. Still, limiting your consumption of processed foods is a good idea for a variety of reasons. With some smart food choices, you’ll not only lower your blood pressure, but also feel better and have more energy to do the things you love.

Get some sun love

You may think it’s the feel-good sensation you get from soaking up some rays—and that might be true—but sunlight also converts the nitrate that’s stored in your skin into nitric oxide, a compound that dilates your blood vessels. This dilation results in lowered blood pressure. Make sure, of course, to also protect your skin and eyes.

Make connections

Giving and receiving hugs, massages, or other forms of “sensitive warm touch” helps release a hormone called oxytocin which lowers the stress response, calms the nervous system, and ultimately helps lower elevated blood pressure.

Did you know that having a dog as part of your family can make you less likely to end up with heart disease? Dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure than those without dogs. This is because they may walk more and have more interaction with others during those walks. Cats and other animals can also help prevent their humans from struggling with hypertension because petting or cuddling another living being is soothing and they are less likely to feel lonely.

Volunteering is another way to make connections and lower blood pressure. A study on older adults, found that those who spent 200 hours or more per year volunteering reduced their risk of hypertension by about 40 percent.

Lower blood pressure naturally with Japanese red reishi mushrooms

Mikei and Reishi cultivationDid you know that red reishi mushrooms is one of the oldest remedies for treating hypertension? Studies have suggested that ganoderic acid—one of the active ingredients found in this medicinal mushroom—can decrease high blood pressure, lower excessive cholesterol levels, and prevent dangerous blood clotting. Researchers have also discovered that reishi mushrooms regulate blood flow and oxygen uptake.

In addition, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long used reishi mushrooms, called ling zhi, to calm the nervous system, and this is an excellent way to keep the blood pressure from shooting upward.

Healthy lifestyle choices and the right herbs play a vital role in preventing and treating high blood pressure. Along with the help of Japanese red reishi, you can successfully lower your blood pressure, and prevent hypertension, naturally.

* Note that you should not stop taking your blood pressure medications unless instructed to do so by your physician or other qualified healthcare professional.

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


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