If upon a routine checkup with your doctor it was discovered that your blood pressure is high enough to be prescribed drugs, would you obediently take your prescription to the pharmacist and begin a regimen of loading your body with side-effect producing medication? Would you seek out a second opinion? Would you investigate natural remedies, including foods that lower blood pressure naturally?
Of course, it would depend on the direness of your high blood pressure situation, the entire topic of which hit close to home enough for me in early 2009 that I’ve become sensitive to the nuances of the subject. Someone who’s been a good friend of mine for over twenty years suffered a stroke at the tender age of 54 in April of this year. This individual had been made aware of the precariousness of his cardiovascular condition, yet procrastinated any treatment, natural or otherwise. The result was at once tragically devastating and avoidable. Now he and all of us close to him are focused on his rehabilitation; a long process that is painful for family and friends and extremely challenging for both him and his speech and physical therapists. Bottom line: If your blood pressure in dangerously high – get medical treatment immediately.
But what about those of us who find our blood pressure “creeping upward”, but not yet in the danger zone? Can we reverse this without expensive drugs that often cause other problems? Are there non-drug remedies such as foods that lower blood pressure naturally?As a ‘middle-aged bodybuilder’, this question and the answers it can produce are very important to me. I work out intensely with weights. I enjoy pushing my body to higher levels of performance and reaping the rewards of doing so. At 45, I often perform more intensely in the gym than guys twenty years my junior. There’s nothing that could knock me off this enjoyable trajectory faster than a cardiovascular system that can’t handle the load. If there are foods that lower blood pressure naturally, I damn-well want to know about them.
When I was in my early thirties, my blood pressure began rising for obvious reasons. I was thirty pounds overweight and heading toward carrying fifty pounds of excess blubber – a dubious milestone I eventually reached. Upon hearing about my rising blood pressure from my doc, I naturally became concerned about the possibility of blowing out a blood vessel wall while intensely working out my fat-insulated muscles. As described in my book, HardBody Success, the answer to a simple question posed to my doctor became one of my motivators to drop the fat:
“If I lose all this excess fat, will my blood pressure go down?”
“It should”, he answered. “Blood pressure is affected by body fat levels.”
‘Okay… let’s add that little tidbit of info to all the other negatives I’m experiencing from being a fat guy’, I thought.
And getting lean was indeed a ‘natural remedy for high blood pressure’ in my middle to late thirties.
Yet recently, at a lean and svelte 45-years old, it began rising again. Systolic readings started creeping into the upper 130s and occasionally hit readings over 140. Diastolic pressure was sometimes getting over 90 and hardly ever reading under 80. ‘Hmmmm… Not good!’ I began perusing information about natural high blood pressure remedies, including ‘foods that lower blood pressure naturally.’
Without officially adopting a radically different eating regimen, I’ve recently encountered a pleasant surprise. My blood pressure has dropped significantly and has held at a low/average level for a couple of months. What had been systolic readings of 140 are now coming in as low as 110 to 115. Diastolic readings are now averaging about 75. I couldn’t help but ask myself “what the hell happened” since I want to identify the behavior that made the difference so I can continue it. After all, the level of stress I was experiencing had actually increased during this time.
Blood Pressure Lowering Foods
‘What could have caused my blood pressure to drop?’ I wondered.
Although identifying where I’d made a change would count as evidence that’s nothing more than anecdotal, there’s value in identifying it nonetheless. I hadn’t consciously reduced my sodium intake, making this an unlikely explanation. However, I had recently added two foods to my daily eating habits: bananas and almonds. And what blood pressure-minimizing minerals are packed inside these two food sources? Bananas are rich in potassium and almonds are high in magnesium.
Potassium acts in a sort of antagonistic manner toward sodium in the body. When bodily potassium levels go up, it results in the depletion of some sodium. When they go down, more sodium is retained and absorbed by the body, thus sending blood pressure higher.
Yes, there are other food sources of potassium besides bananas. For this reason, I’d stopped eating bananas a few years back when an addiction to putting too many of them in bodybuilding smoothies had me packing in the calories. I’ve brought them back with a good handle on ‘moderation.’ The only theory I can propose for my blood pressure drop is that the other sources weren’t providing me adequate potassium and the reintroduction of bananas made the difference.
What about almonds? I had to learn to like these things ‘coz cashews seem so much tastier. And ironically, the one thing that makes almonds palatable (in my opinion) is a good dose of salt… haha… so much for ‘foods that lower blood pressure naturally.’
Well, I’ve found a painless way to add unsalted almonds to an eating plan: put them in a smoothie as a dietary fat source in place of olive oil. Believe it or not, they mix in very well and even unsalted ones won’t mess up the flavor. Whatever you prefer – raw or dry-roasted: don’t add more than ten to fifteen almonds (depending on quantity of other smoothie ingredients) or you might create a calorie wallop that could get excessive.
The magnesium in almonds (along with spinach, sunflower seeds, and barley) has been shown to relax the blood vessel walls and thus, help lower blood pressure. Almonds also just happen to be high in potassium, making them even more ‘mineral beneficial’ as one of the ‘foods that lower blood pressure naturally.’ Add to this the fact that they contain fiber and have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels and you’ve got a great tool in your grab-bag of foods for naturally lowering blood pressure.
Again, let me emphasize that evidence of the addition of these two foods to my eating habits as being the source of my lowered blood pressure is purely anecdotal. Additionally, you should always consult your physician or licensed nutritionist before making major changes to your diet.
But feel free to share your own experiences with purported ‘foods that lower blood pressure naturally.’