Nobody wants high blood pressure. As we age, our hearts aren’t what they used to be and we need to do everything we can to keep our tickers running as we get older. Here are a few tips to help prevent (or lower) high blood pressure.
Most of us tend to run around breathing with just our upper chests – shallow breathing that doesn’t bring us quite enough oxygen and contributes to a feeling of fatigue and anxiety. It also raises blood pressure as your cardiovascular system struggles to compensate for the drop of oxygen. Biofeedback research shows that by simply doing 15 minutes a day of slow deep breathing you can drop your blood pressure by 10 points. That’s worth doing, isn’t it?
Being active every single day is the best possible preventative for just about every illness known, including hypertension. One way to look at it is that exercise for prevention can be a small daily habit, but exercise to treat full-blown disease is much more like a part-time job. Easier to fit that daily walk in now, especially if you can sneak it into your day by adding it to your commute or errand running. Vigorous exercise where you can’t easily talk is especially strengthening for the heart (and slimming for the waistline), but just a good brisk walk gives you great bang for your buck.
A Mediterranean style diet that is based on vegetables, nuts, fruits, fish, whole grains and low sugar is an easy and tasty way to prevent hypertension. Include more celery and parsley for a natural diuretic effect. A cup of hibiscus tea is not only pleasant (especially iced on a hot day), but can lower blood pressure. Best of all, an ounce of dark chocolate daily actually relaxes your arterial walls allowing for more blood flow – another delicious way to help your heart.
Dehydration is very common, especially as we age. Don’t worry about a specific number of glasses, but instead use a common sense measure. Except for first thing in the morning, your urine should be light colored. During the day you should have to visit the bathroom at least every 3-4 hours. Not enough water makes your heart work harder.
Stress is the number one contributor to mortality, especially when it comes to heart diseases like high blood pressure. Spend time daily with people you love and who love you. If you don’t already have a pet, consider adopting one. If you do, make sure you are out walking your dog several times daily (see #2!) and/or getting a good petting session with your cat.
Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.