Lowering your blood pressure (it’s not just about watching sodium)
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Every monday at 4:15pm on QR77 Radio join me and Angela Kokott host of Calgary Today with our segment “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating. If you missed my segments I will be archiving these audio discussions on my blog here.
Listen to Episode 12 here: Lowering your blood pressure (it’s not just about watching sodium)
As the old Chinese proverb says “he who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.”
You might be surprised that the key to reducing your blood pressure is not just be aware of sodium. Here are some things you should know:
John, a 46 year old real estate investor and coach for his sons hockey team new his busy lifestyle had caught up to him as he left his doctors office with a prescription from his doctor for a medication to lower his blood pressure. Long days at the office and busy evening schedules with his family made it difficult for John to maintain his past fitness regime. Pair this with sloppy nutrition habits and an aging metabolism and it was no surprise John developed a large 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 John needed to focus on first.
1. Start with the most significant
While John could have focused on reducing salt, starting to exercise or other lifestyle changes I encouraged him to start with changes that would give him the biggest result for his effort. For most people, including John 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 ten pounds could drop blood pressure he made a deal with his doctor that he could hold off starting any medication to see if weight loss could 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). While these changes may sound minor, because they were done daily they added up to be 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 and the answer might be there. Why not start by keeping your overall eating patterns the same but shrinking down 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.
2. 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. For more information visit: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/index.html
Approximately half of Canadians aged 31 to 50 years 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 over 65-79 per cent of adults aged 31 years and over, are falling short in calcium from calcium-rich foods, beverages and supplements.
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 in these foods could absolutely reduce your blood pressure substantially.
3. Fine tune
As you know, watching your sodium consumption is also an important 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.