I’ve had three conversations in the past couple of weeks related to high blood pressure. This is one of the many wellness issues we are facing after one year of lockdown. My first resource for health topics is my trusted copy of Nutritional Healing, and this a summary of what I learned.
High blood pressure has long been perceived as a male issue, and such preconceived medical notions are dangerously false. Hypertension affects 30.3 percent of women, just behind men at 31.8 percent. In fact, all three of the conversations I’ve recently had about high blood pressure were with women.
HBP affects African-American men and women at a high rate. According to heart.org, “More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African-Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe.”
Despite HBP being nearly equally distributed between men and women -- and affecting large numbers of African-Americans -- physicians’ implicit biases often lead to differences in how they treat people in these groups. Implicit biases in the medical profession are well documented, and very much still a norm. Arm yourself with that knowledge when discussing your blood pressure measurement with your doctor. The medical profession is still ideologically dominated by white males.
High blood pressure is a silent killer, because there are few side effects before it becomes life-threatening. Make sure your doctor takes your blood pressure and records it in your history. Invest in your own sphygmomanometer -- developments in technology have made them easier to own and use than ever before. Since doctors are more likely to ignore and downplay high blood pressure in women and non-whites, it is important to get your blood pressure checked often, maintain a record, and get a sense of what is normal for you.
Patients must also listen to their doctors’ advice, and take their blood pressure management medicine when prescribed. It may seem odd to take medicine every day when you don’t feel ill, but that’s the point of prevention -- taking positive action to maintain your good health.
Doctors will direct patients with HBP to avoid sodium. It’s not enough to reduce table salt! You also have to check all of the Nutrition Facts labels on your food for sodium. Also, specifically avoid MSG (found in most restaurant food), and check the sodium level on over-the-counter medications like Advil and Tylenol. Avoid canned and pickled vegetables, and cured meats.
When you crave salty foods, reach for your magnesium/calcium supplement. Salty cravings are often a sign of a mineral deficiency. Researchers at the State University of New York found that the higher the blood pressure the lower the magnesium in a double blind, placebo controlled trial. If you really crave salt, try Himalayan salt. It is higher in minerals -- but it does have the same effect as regular salt on your blood pressure.
Other ways to manage HBP include:
Eat a lot of fiber, oat bran, fresh fruit and vegetables. Take a fiber supplement.
Avoid drugs, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and animal fat as much as possible.
Watch your weight, and check out the DASH Diet.
Stress -- it is an enormous problem for everyohttps://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/fammed-modules/integrative-medicine-mind-body-therapies/hypertension/forms-of-meditationne! After one year in lockdown, this is no surprise. Check out this study on HBP and meditation.
Monitor your blood pressure at home. You may feel stress at the doctor’s office. Taking your blood pressure regularly at the same time everyday will give you a better sense of what is normal for you. You will also discover triggers that affect your blood pressure.
Supplements which help you maintain good pulmonary health include:
Apple pectin increases fiber and helps with digestive health. If you take a fiber supplement, check the ingredients list, because it could already be in it. It is worth trying on its own.
Fatty acids. Try evening primrose, black currant seed oil, and olive oil.
Exercise is not negotiable if you have high blood pressure. You need a minimum of 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise. Walking works as long as you maintain a steady pace for 30 minutes.