How to lower your blood pressure: Cutting sodium is only part of solution Print

By Andrea Holwegner, For The Calgary Herald  July 14, 2011
 
As the old Chinese proverb says, “he who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.”

John, a 46-year-old real estate investor and coach for his son’s hockey team, knew his busy lifestyle had caught up to him as he left his doctor’s office with a prescription for medication to lower his blood pressure.

Long days at the office and busy evening schedules with his family made it difficult for him to maintain his fitness regimen.

Pair this with sloppy nutrition habits and an aging metabolism, and it was no surprise John had developed a beer belly on top of his recent diagnosis.

John new that he needed to watch his sodium intake, but was surprised we didn’t discuss sodium in great detail until much later into our nutrition counselling sessions. There was something else more significant he needed to focus on first.

Start strong

While John could have focused on reducing salt, starting to exercise or making other lifestyle changes, I encouraged him to start with changes that would give him the biggest result for his effort.

For most people, this means losing weight if you are overweight, especially if you carry extra weight around your midsection.

When John heard that even losing five or 10 pounds could drop his blood pressure, he made a deal with his doctor that he could hold off starting any medication to see if weight loss would help.

John reduced his portion sizes overall by switching to a smaller cereal bowl in the morning, adding fruit to his breakfast, eating smaller portions of meat and starchy foods at supper, and eliminating potato chips from this diet (except on weekends).

These changes may sound minor, but because they were done daily, they added up to big calorie deficits over time. John lost a steady pound per week for a few months and effectively reduced his blood pressure without starting a high blood pressure medication.

If you are overweight, what do you do every day (rather than on the weekend or only occasionally) that could reduce your calorie intake? If you don’t know, keep a food journal for a week.

Why not start by keeping your overall eating patterns the same but shrinking what you eat by just a bit?

Reducing your intake by a couple hundred calories per day will result in a few pounds of weight loss every month.

Build in key strategies

Research from the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) eating plan has shown you can reduce your blood pressure substantially through the food you eat.

This eating plan has a strong emphasis on potassium-rich vegetables and fruits and calcium-rich foods among other foods (www. nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/index. html). Follow this under the advice of a health care provider, however, especially if you have other health issues that mean you should restrict your potassium intake.

Approximately half of Canadians aged 31 to 50 are below the minimum recommended number of servings of vegetables and fruit according to Statistics Canada in the Canadian Community Healthy Survey. This survey also showed more than 65 to 79 per cent of adults aged 31 and older are falling short in calcium.

Since most people need to get more fruits, veggies and calcium-rich foods such as milk and yogurt, next time you are wondering what to have as a snack, start with these food items first. Correcting a deficiency there could help to reduce your blood pressure.

Fine tune

As you likely know, reducing your sodium consumption is also an essential part of reducing your blood pressure.

Other lifestyle factors such as quitting smoking, watching alcohol consumption, getting regular physical activity and reducing stress are also important to help manage a healthy blood pressure.

The best way to be successful is to take one step at a time when it comes to lifestyle change. It may be slow, but you will have a better chance of sustainable success.

ANDREA HOLWEGNER, THE CHOCOHOLIC DIETITIAN, OWNS HEALTH STAND NUTRITION CONSULTING. VISIT WWW.HEALTHSTANDNUTRITION.COM OR PHONE 403-262-3466 FOR MORE INFORMATION.

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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