1. Skip the canned foods and drinks and eat fresh produce.
As far as possible, avoid canned food or microwaveable foods wrapped in plastic. Why? BPA, a chemical used as an epoxy lining for cans and plastic bottles, has been linked to high blood pressure. BPA can leach into foods and drinks. To those who already have heart disease or hypertension, or other cardiovascular risk factors, just a 5 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure can cause significant problems.1 It is better to store foods in glass rather than plastic containers.
Canned foods also contain more sodium than fresh. Frozen dinners, ready-to-eat cereals, vegetable juices, canned vegetables or soups, processed meat, meat analogues, and condiments– all contain significant amounts of sodium. Read the label and look for the word sodium. While we need a little sodium for our nerves to work properly, too much is detrimental. People older than fifty, African-Americans, and certainly individuals with prehypertension, hypertension, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and those who work an irregular schedule should ideally restrict their daily sodium intake to 1500 mg. or less (1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium).
Use garlic, onion, oregano, and celery seed to season your food. One caveat here: before you consider potassium chloride as a salt substitute, you should talk to your doctor. If you are taking a diuretic which promotes sodium loss while increasing potassium in your blood, using potassium chloride is definitely not a good idea. You could get too much potassium, which is bad news for your heart.
2. Replace soft drinks with non-caffeinated teas.
Sugar in sweetened beverages, if consumed regularly, can promote insulin resistance and inflammation. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. Consequently, the blood sugar increases. Even high normal levels of blood glucose increase the risk for heart disease. Both insulin resistance and inflammation accelerate atherosclerosis and encourage undesirable clot formation—both of which are risk factors for stroke.2 When you add these two conditions to high blood pressure, the likelihood for stroke, heart disease, and kidney damage will be most assuredly yours unless you make dramatic changes in your lifestyle.
Think diet soft drinks are better for you? Researchers studied 2,564 people in the large, multi-ethnic Northern Manhattan Study and found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported no soda drinking. These researchers also accounted for patients’ metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, and heart disease history.3Consumption of 2 or more artificially sweetened sodas per day is associated with double the risk for kidney function decline in women.4
Then, too, soft drinks are high in phosphates. Although the body does need phosphorus, researchers have found cholesterol deposits in the walls of arteries are higher following a higher phosphate diet.5
Consuming one soft drink a day significantly also increases the risk for chronic kidney disease. Unfortunate, because high blood pressure already increases the risk of chronic kidney disease.
3. Check your over-the-counter medicines.
Everyone knows that salt needs to be restricted in cases of prehypertension and hypertension, but some over-the-counter medicines have sodium too. For example, many anti-acids have sodium bicarbonate. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs, such as Aleve or Advil, increase the risk for elevated blood pressure. NSAIDs can make one retain water and decrease the functioning of the kidneys. Decongestants generally increase blood pressure.
4. Have your vitamin D level checked.
This is especially important if high blood pressure runs in your family, or you are at risk for high blood pressure, or already have pre-hypertension or hypertension. Over half of the populations in North America and Western Europe have insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for hypertension. Conversely, sufficient levels of vitamin D have been seen as protective against this malady.6,7
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study showed that vitamin D supplements taken during the winter months can help lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients who have low levels of vitamin D.8
Hypertension and insulin resistance often keep company with each other. Since low vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk for diabetes, it is even more urgent to know your levels if you have a family history of diabetes or at least one risk factor for it.
There is also a significant correlation with mortality for major cardiovascular events such as heart failure, heart attack, sudden cardiac death, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and peripheral vascular disease for individuals who have low vitamin D levels.9Atrial fibrillation is caused when the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly. This consequently reduces the amount of blood the heart can pump out every minute. Peripheral vascular disease is a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to one’s limbs.
Rodent studies show that even short-term depletion of vitamin D (as in the winter months) will aggravate hypertension and damage the brain, blood vessels, and the kidneys.10Another study compared individuals who had sufficient amounts of vitamin D to those who either had an insufficient amount or outright vitamin D deficiency. The latter group had greater plasma angiotensin 2 levels and a trend for higher plasma renin activity.11 Angiotensin II is a very powerful constrictor of blood vessels. When the blood vessels are constricted, your blood pressure increases. Angiotensin II also promotes inflammation inside the arteries. Bioactive vitamin D helps to suppress excessive angiotensin production.12
5. Learn to enjoy fresh, non-starchy vegetables.
A meta-analysis showed that consumption of vegetarian diets was associated with lower mean systolic BP and diastolic BP compared with the consumption of omnivorous diets.13
In a study consisting of 2,195 American participants, ages 49-50, researchers found that consumption of certain vegetables are linked to lower blood pressure readings. Greater consumption of both cooked and raw vegetables–tomatoes, peas, celery, and scallions—had a significant and inverse relation to blood pressure.14
Disclaimer: The information in this article is helpful and is educational. It is not the author’s or authors’ or Wildwood Health Institute’s intent to substitute the blog article for diagnosis, counseling, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
Copyright through December 2023. All rights reserved by Wildwood Sanitarium, Inc.
Key words: hypertension treatment, how to lower high blood pressure, vitamin D
- Bae S. Exposure to Bisphenol A From Drinking Canned Beverage Increases Blood Pressure: Randomized Crossover Trial. Hypertension, 2014; DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04261
- A. M. Bernstein. Soda consumption and the risk of stroke in men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.030205
- American Heart Association. “Diet soda may raise odds of vascular events; Salt linked to stroke risk.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209121653.htm
- Lin, J. Associations of Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Soda with Albuminuria and Kidney Function Decline in Women. CJSAN January 2011 vol. 6 no. 1 160-166
- University of Sheffield. “Link between phosphate intake and heart disease demonstrated in new study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110607105214.htm
- Karani S. Association of vitamin D status with arterial blood pressure and hypertension risk: a mendelian randomization study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, June 2014 DOI: 10.1016/ S2213-8587(14)70113-5
- European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG). “Genetic research clarifies link between hypertension and Vitamin D deficiency.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610192638.htm
- European Society of Hypertension. “Vitamin D supplements can reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2012. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120425094310.htm
- Ciccone, MM. [Vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular diseases]. G Ital Cardiol (Rome). 2015 Jan; 16(1):16-20
- Andersen, LB. Vitamin d depletion aggravates hypertension and target-organ damage. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Jan 28; 4(2). pii: e001417
- Ajabshir, S. The effects of vitamin D on the renin-angiotensin system. J Nephropathol. 2014; 3(2): 41–43
- Li, YC. Vitamin D: a negative endocrine regulator of the renin-angiotensin system and blood pressure. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 May; 89-90(1-5):387-92
- Yokoyama, Y. Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis JAMA Intern Med 2014 Apr; 174(4):577-87
- Chan, Q. Relation of raw and cooked vegetable consumption to blood pressure: the INTERMAP Study.J Hum Hypertens. 2014 Jun; 28(6):353-9