There is a virtual cornucopia of foods, herbs, and other forms of nourishment that are readily available to lower high blood pressure, or hypertension, naturally. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are just a handful of the healthy things you can eat to promote healthy blood flow. Learning the benefits of these foods and determining which ones are best for your diet may help to lower your blood pressure and maintain circulatory health.
The Importance of Your Blood
“Blood is a very special juice,” wrote the famous 18th-century author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but it is more than just “special.” Blood is the fuel that sustains human and animal life. It enables the body to stay alive by carrying oxygen and nutrients to living cells, taking away waste products, and transporting immune cells to fight infections. The average human adult body contains more than six quarts of blood which travels through the blood vessels and heart. This essential substance also includes platelets that can form a stopper in damaged blood vessels, preventing blood loss. As special as this “juice” is, it can also develop an unhealthy amount of pressure in your body.[1, 2]
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure your blood applies to the walls of your blood vessels as it flows. Your heart is a muscle that works as a pump to push your blood through these vessels. Checking your blood pressure is one of the first tasks performed whenever you visit your healthcare professional.
Since it’s impossible to determine blood pressure merely by sight or listening to the heart, an oscillatory cuff is wrapped around the upper arm and inflated until blood flow is restricted. As the pressure slowly decreases, the cuff is able to detect vibrations. It measures your systolic reading when the pressure subsides just enough for the artery to force blood through. The cuff takes your diastolic reading when the pressure reduces further and your blood moves freely through your artery with its normal pulses.
What Is High Blood Pressure & What Is Normal Blood Pressure?
Healthy or normal blood pressure is below 120/80–120 being the systolic level and 80 being the diastolic level. Most people tend to be right around these levels or slightly higher. The systolic level is the highest your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, and the diastolic is the lowest it reaches as your heart relaxes. Sometimes these levels get too high due to complications stemming from diet, weight, activity levels, alcohol, smoking, and stress.
There are varying degrees of blood pressure measured in five categories.
- Normal: Systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
- Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
- Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
- Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 or diastolic over 120
Why Is High Blood Pressure Bad for You?
High blood pressure causes harm to your blood vessels. When blood pushes through your arteries with too much force, damage occurs and enables fat and calcium to build up. This process eventually causes blockage to occur in the form of plaque-promoting inflammation of the artery walls. Also known as clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis, this buildup may cause blood clots to form. These clots can sometimes break loose and find their way to the heart or lungs resulting in obstructed blood flow to these organs.
There are several things you can do to help bring down your blood pressure levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake
- Raise activity levels
- Start an aerobic exercise routine
- Avoid stress and anger
- Incorporate relaxation techniques
- Follow a low-sodium diet
- Eat healthy foods rich in vitamins and nutrients that promote healthy arteries and blood flow
Foods That Lower Blood Pressure
Certain foods are rich in properties that can maintain strong blood vessels, discourage calcium deposits in healthy arteries, and promote healthy blood flow. Nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium support a healthy circulatory system and have positive effects on blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to maintain a healthy circulatory system. This plan suggests a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, poultry, fish, whole grains, nuts, and beans. The DASH diet also encourages eating small amounts of low or nonfat dairy products and a low sodium intake.
Researchers say that potassium-rich vegetables like sweet potatoes, avocados, kale, and spinach could help to lower your blood pressure and promote overall wellness. In a typical North American diet, sodium is dominant, and potassium is low. This imbalance can increase the chance of developing high blood pressure. Research revealed that people who ate more potassium experienced healthier blood pressure.
Nitrates are compounds that are also major players when it comes to lowering blood pressure. They play a significant role in our metabolic system. The body can convert them into a molecule called nitric oxide, which is related to blood flow. It allows the cells in your arteries to soften which can promote low blood pressure. The largest source of nitrates in the human diet is found in vegetables. The most potent and beneficial is beetroot. In addition to this powerful food, there are others rich in vitamins and minerals that help to lower blood pressure.
- Potatoes cooked in their skin
- Leafy greens such as Swiss chard and spinach
- Vegetable juices like carrot and tomato
- Acorn squash
Fresh & Fruity
Fruits are considered some of the best foods to lower blood pressure. Researchers have found that people who consumed fresh, raw fruits on a regular basis had substantially lower blood pressure than those who rarely ate them. Certain fruits provide minerals such as potassium and substances called flavonoids, both of which are linked to healthy blood pressure. The most potent of these are:
- Fruit juices: prune, pomegranate, orange, apple
Blueberries and strawberries are particularly powerful. Research suggests that these may lower blood pressure by aiding in the blood vessels’ elasticity. Start off your day with a heart-healthy breakfast mixing these fruits in a cup of yogurt or bowl of oatmeal.
Tea has been associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, and research suggests this herbal drink can lower blood pressure if consumed on a regular basis.
Green tea possesses antioxidants and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitor properties. The polyphenols in green tea decrease the absorption of lipids from the intestines and help the conversion of cholesterol into healthy bile acids. Evidence shows that drinking green tea has a cardioprotective effect and is associated with blood vessel relaxation. These results are due to polyphenols called catechins. Daily consumption of five to six cups of green tea could help promote normal blood pressure and cholesterol.
Many studies have evaluated this sour tea and its impact on blood pressure. Hibiscus tea contains antioxidants and has blood pressure-lowering abilities, especially in its extracts. In one particular study, adults who were mildly and pre-hypertensive showed a healthy reduction in their systolic levels after only six weeks of drinking hibiscus tea on a daily basis.
Unlike other types of tea, black tea is more oxidized—a result of the leaves being aged longer. In the past, black tea has been shown to improve mental alertness and can promote and maintain healthy arteries. Studies indicate that consumption of four to five cups of black tea daily can reduce high blood pressure.[14, 15]