Recently a participant noted, “My blood pressure came down some since switching to all plants, but I’m still on several medications. What else can I do?”
As you know, a whole foods, plant based, no oil, lifestyle prevents and often reverses hypertension, and takes care of your endothelium! Here’s how:
1. You’re leaving out the animal proteins and fat that produce arterial inflammation (remember TMAO ?) and also the fats and oils that reduce arterial dilation (the “tourniquet test” and flow mediated dilation in my HEA lecture) Read about the all important endothelium that lines your arteries.
2. You’re putting in lots of foods that contain a variety of anti inflammatory molecules
3. Many plants are excellent potassium, magnesium and calcium sources — all of which are important to blood pressure regulation
4. You’re putting in foods such as beans and greens (and many others) that increase nitric oxide production, thus improving endothelial function (the smooth lining of your blood vessels)
5. You’re leaving out the processed foods with added fats, sugar, salt and GOK what else — that increase inflammation and decrease vasodilation, and increase blood vessel wall tension.
So, if your BP is still up – review the list above and see what tweaking you can do. Numbers 4 & 5 often catch people up – not enough greens and beans, and processed foods sneak in. To make sure I get my greens I make a wonderful leafy green salad twice a day (see Salad Variations). And there’s lots of other “greenies” that work – broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans….
So, if you’re already doing all these things, what else can you do?
1. Further increase exercise – aim for 30-45minutes/day of moderate to vigorous exercise. Include some resistance exercises and weights.
2.Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night (read about “sleep hygiene” on MACWell website
3. Be careful with alcohol – limit to 1 drink/ day for women max, and not much more for men. Don’t “bank” your drinks. 1 drink = 5 Ounces of wine , 12 oz beer, 1.5 oz spirits. For some, you might need to reduce even further.
4. Don’t smoke
5. De- Stress – meditate, yoga, take a vacation, stop and take 3 deep breaths throughout the day. Laugh out loud! (it’s contagious)
6. Get up and move around every 20 minutes — our constantly sitting jobs and hobbies increase heart disease. Persons who sit all day at their computer, and then work it off in the gym that evening, still have higher rates of heart disease than persons who get up and move throughout the day! I’m making it a habit to set an alarm (one with a nice chime) for 20 minutes, and getting up and doing several yoga stretches.
7. Try leaving out caffeine completely
8. Look at all your canned, boxed, jarred foods for any hidden excess salt. Be mindful when you eat out.
9. Here are some especially helpful food choices:
Anthocyanins of these beautiful blue and purple fruits and veggies help lower BP.
The anthocyanin in black berries, blue berries, strawberries, eggplants and many more are helpful for BP reduction.
Eat some beets everyday (I like mine roasted) or a glass of beet juice (no added sugar).
Increase your dark greens and leafy greens – at least 2 big portions a day.
Increase your beans at least 1 1/2 -2 cups/day.
1-2 cloves of garlic/day can help.
Increase your oats. AND You’ll love this one – try Dark Chocolate – at least 85% – ONLY one square.
Ground Flaxseed 1/4 cup/day has been shown in randomized trials to decrease BP.
Heart Shaped Beets and other delights for
a balanced HEA potluck meal:
In general eating a balance of the 4 food groups – fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains , getting all the colors of the rainbow as the week goes by, leaving out processed foods and oil ,and living an active, balanced lifestyle – will minimize and often reverse hypertension.