The medical community has long treated high blood pressure with a combination of diuretics (to remove water and salt), beta blockers (to slow the heart beat) and vasodilators (to relax the blood vessel walls). However, these treatments do not address the cause of the high blood pressure and can have side effects themselves.
The only common lifestyle change that is advice is to greatly reduce ones intake of salt. Some people do respond well to the removal of salt from the diet, but we also know that we need sodium for many basic physiological functions too.
One of the most common underlying causes of high blood pressure is related to the body producing too much insulin. Long-term exposure to this hormone may result in insulin resistance, whereby the cells become desensitized to insulin. This causes the body to produce even more insulin and this may contribute to high blood pressure due to a loss of magnesium and an increase in sodium.
• Avoid foods that raise insulin levels: Sugary foods and grains should be avoided if you have high blood pressure. This also includes whole grains, as they rapidly break down to sugars. Foods to avoid include: Breads, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes, sweeteners, cool drinks, fruit juice. Try to get most of your carbohydrates from vegetables and some whole fruit.
• Get sufficient vitamin D: Lack of vitamin D can result in high blood pressure due to increased insulin resistance and higher levels of parathyroid hormone. Get 10-20 minutes of sun exposure per day or supplement with a vitamin D3 supplement.
• Increase your omega 3 fatty acid intake: Consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to sensitize the insulin receptors and reduce systemic inflammation. Unfortunately most people get too many omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammation and therefore insulin resistance. The best source of omega-3 is fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. Other sources are walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds. Sources of omega-6 that should be avoided are processed vegetable and seed oils, fried foods and packaged foods.
• Avoid fructose: Fructose intake has been strongly associated with high blood pressure because it breaks down into uric acid. This raises blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in blood vessels. Avoid excess fruit and products sweetened with fructose.
• Eliminate caffeine: There is evidence that caffeine increases high blood pressure in those already suffering. Try to cut down gradually over time and stick to one cup every other day if you can’t avoid it altogether.