Part Two in the continuing series on Heart Health
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the risk factors for heart disease. Out of control blood pressure, along with other risk factors can set you up for a heart attack. Here are five ways that you can keep your blood pressure in check.
What is High Blood Pressure?
First of all, it has nothing to do with your personality. You don’t have to be under stress to have high blood pressure although living a high stress life can affect it.
Your heart pumps blood through a series of vessels that extend throughout the body. It takes a certain pressure to push that blood throughout those vessels. The muscular walls of the blood vessels stretch to accommodate the blood more easily. Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers: the systolic and diastolic. They represent your heart at work and at rest, respectively.
When blood pressure is high, it takes more force by the heart to push it through the vessels. The vessels stretch but the increased pressure on their muscular walls can cause tears in the walls, loss of elasticity (resulting in weakness) and plaque buildup from bad cholesterol.
Heart attacks and strokes occur when the force of the blood knocks these plaques or blood clots loose. They can lodge and block blood flow in the brain and the heart or even smaller vessels in the extremities.
Lowering Your Risk
There is good news. It is never too early to lower this risk factor. Alone it can be damaging but in conjunction with other risk factors for heart disease, you could be shortening your life. The best thing is that lowering blood pressure is within your control.
1. Know your numbers – You can’t work on a solution unless you know where you stand. Normal blood pressure is in the range of 110/70. Even at 120/80, you will want to think about ways to lower the pressure. Being proactive can prevent you from having to use medication to bring it down.
2. Watch what you eat – There are many good fats that actually help your body. Learn about those fats and stay away from the harmful fats. Eating too much bad fat can increase your levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol forms plaques in blood vessels. This alone can increase your blood pressure. Sodium is a big factor. Eating too much can raise your blood pressure. Look for unprocessed, unrefined sea salt. (see salt note at the bottom of the page) Choose foods that are low in bad fats and sodium and high in fiber.
3. Get moving – Exercise increases your lung capacity and lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. As you become fitter, it will take more vigorous exercise to raise your heart rate.
4. Check with you Doctor or Naturopath – Diet and exercise may not lower your blood pressure enough to lower your risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor or naturopath about the best solution for you. There are many heart health supplements on the market that can take the place of pharmaceuticals. Make sure you discuss this with a reputable practitioner. Once your blood pressure is under control you may be able to discontinue the supplements or if absolutely necessary, the medications. Make sure you weigh the risks of pharmaceuticals because there are many side effects that can be long lasting.
5. Stop smoking – Smoking constricts blood vessels when they should contract. The heart has to pump harder to pass blood through them, raising your blood pressure.
The human body cannot survive without salt (which is why you get a saline drip when you are in the hospital). Sodium is an essential nutrient that your body can't manufacture on its own, therefore it must be consumed.
Here's the problem. Most people are eating the wrong kind of salt. The only way to receive all the benefits of salt is to eat unrefined sea salt, NOT processed table salt.
The reason why salt has gotten such a bad reputation is because 99% of the world's salt research has been done on commercial table salt, the only salt most people know about (which is bad, bad, bad). Some of the best scientific research on the healthy properties of unrefined sea salt are written in French, German and Portuguese and many Americans have not been exposed to them (until now, right?).
Well, not anymore. Unrefined sea salt has worked its magic in hundreds of my clients, and, not to mention, ME.
When you consider that sea salt aids in balancing blood sugar levels, is needed for the absorption of food particles through the intestinal tract, can help prevent muscle cramps, is needed to make bones strong, regulates and normalizes blood pressure, increases energy levels, helps regulate the metabolism, helps maintain proper electrolyte balance, and supports the immune system, how could you not use it?
What salt should you buy?
Look for unprocessed, unrefined sea salt. My favorite brands are Celtic Sea Salt, Redmond's Real Salt and Himalayan Sea Salt (but any unprocessed, unrefined brand is great - be careful though, if it doesn't mention unprocessed & unrefined, assume it is not).
These salts can be found on these great websites:
www.celticseas.com (Look for Mineral Rich Salts)
Oh, and of course, avoid refined white table salt at all costs (unless you want high blood pressure for some reason). This is the kind of salt we want to avoid like the plague.
Do you have high blood pressure? It is a risk factor for heart disease. Use these five methods to lower yours.