According to the American Heart Association, 116.4 million—or nearly half of all US adults—are estimated to have high blood pressure. In recognition of national “High Blood Pressure Education Month,” we wanted to shed a little light on this topic, starting by explaining what high blood pressure is. Blood pressure is the force of your blood as it flows through the arteries in your body. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries. As the blood flows, it puts pressure on your artery walls. This is called blood pressure. High blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension) happens when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. If you have high blood pressure, this higher pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels. Over time, the extra strain increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.1 Let’s take a look at different things that can cause high blood pressure, how you can reduce your risk, and what nutrients may be able to help.
What causes high blood pressure, and what are some of its symptoms?
There are two types of hypertension, and they each have different causes.
Primary hypertension: Primary hypertension is also called “essential hypertension.” This kind of hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause.2 Most people have this type of hypertension. A combination of factors may play a role in primary hypertension:
Genes: Some people are genetically more likely to get hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic anomalies from your parents.
Physical changes: If something in your body changes, you may begin to experience the effects of high blood pressure. For example, it is thought that changes in your kidney function due to aging may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to rise.
Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like limited exercise and unhealthy food choices can lead to weight problems. And being overweight can increase your chances of getting hypertension.
Secondary hypertension: Secondary hypertension usually happens pretty quickly, and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Some causes of secondary hypertension include: kidney disease, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, adrenal gland issues, among others.3
High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer.” You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. Most people won’t even experience any symptoms, and even if they do, they might attribute these symptoms to other issues. Some symptoms of hypertension include shortness of breath, headaches, nosebleeds, flushing, and dizziness. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. When you have your yearly physical, get your blood pressure checked and talk to your doctor about your risks for hypertension. The best prevention is to know your numbers and make lifestyle changes as needed.
How you can reduce your risk
When it comes to reducing your risk of hypertension, it all comes down to making some key lifestyle changes. If you successfully control your high blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication, too. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk:
Watch your waistline: Blood pressure often increases as weight increases, and losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk. Being overweight can also cause sleep apnea and other breathing disruptions at night, which can further raise your blood pressure. Besides losing weight in general, also pay attention to the weight you carry specifically around your waist. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. The rule of thumb, is that men are at risk if their waist measurement is more than 40 inches, and women are more at risk if their waist measurement is more than 35 inches.4
Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity, which amounts to getting in about 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, can also help to lower your blood pressure. With exercise, though, you have to be consistent. Because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. Some examples of aerobic physical activity that can help to lower your blood pressure include things like swimming, Zumba, and high intensity interval training. If you have any concerns, you can talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program that is right for you.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and one that is low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol, can help to lower your blood pressure. Sometimes it can be hard changing the foods you eat, especially if you’re used to eating the same thing every day. It may be helpful to keep a food diary. This can shed some light on your eating habits, and may give you some insight into something you’ve been eating everyday which has not been the healthiest for you. Another helpful tip is to be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop, and pay attention to sodium levels, which can increase blood pressure if consumed in high amounts.
Top nutrients and herbs that may help
Aged Garlic Extract: According to a recent study published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine,5 supplementing with Aged Garlic Extract effectively reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension, while also improving arterial stiffness. This groundbreaking study focused on 12 clinical trials involving 553 people with high blood pressure. It confirms earlier findings that aged garlic extract lowers systolic blood pressure by an average of 8.3 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure an average of 5.5 mmHg. The effectiveness of this plant-based supplement is comparable to the benefits provided by standard drugs used to treat high blood pressure, but without the potential drug side effects.
Nattokinase: Another nutrient that can help to lower blood pressure is nattokinase, which comes from the Japanese food natto. Nattokinase works by reinforcing the actions of plasmin, your body’s own enzyme that breaks down the clotting agent called fibrin, thereby preventing abnormal thickening of the blood. Because plasmin production slows as you age, this type of support is another really great option for those who would like to help lower blood pressure naturally.7
L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in tea leaves. It was identified in tea by Japanese in 1949. Research has shown that L-theanine may help reduce stress, and a reduction in stress and increased relaxation can help lower the heart rate. In turn, this may help lower blood pressure.8
Managing your blood pressure is a lifelong commitment, but one that can ultimately lead to a healthier and longer life. For a free guide all about high blood pressure, natural ways to manage it, and how to reduce your risk, check out this healthy living guide.7 If you would also like a printed copy mailed to you, please let us know, at www.kyolic.com/contactus.
- Reid, K. Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine 2020;19:1472-1478