This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in February of 2021. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6HpK2OHPPc&t=146s
Brad: Hi folks, Brad Heineck, physical therapist.
Chris: Hi, I'm Chris the Pharmacist.
Brad: And today we're going to talk about, lowering your high blood pressure naturally, recently supported by science. Chris has done a lot of homework on this. Blood pressure is a big deal, you want to keep it intact, keep yourself healthy from now until you're 101 years old. So, what is high blood pressure? And we've got a nice chart here from the American Heart Association. So, should we start out with normal? Hopefully we're there.
Chris: Yeah. So, basically the generalized number is going to be 120 over 80. So, that's considered normal blood pressure. And it can be a little bit lower, some people like me, my blood pressure is constantly like 100 over 60. That's still considered normal. So, even though it's lower than the norm, that's something that's very comfortable. Unless you're getting lightheaded or dizzy that's when your doctor begins to address those issues.
Chris: But for the purposes of today's conversation, we'll just deal these numbers.
Brad: Yeah. Now, we're looking at elevated, it's like you're in the borderline, starting to get the high blood pressure, but you don't need meds yet. It’s a good place to change your diet, change your exercises.
Chris: Exercise and diet.
Brad: And that's exactly what I did about 20 years ago, I was in this range and with running consistently and other activities, I was able to drop it down within a few months.
Chris: Yup. Now, that's huge. So, this elevated range (120-129/80-89) is where you're going to really focus on those lifestyle changes. And when you come to the doctor, they're going to start to talk to you about: how are you eating? what are you doing for your activities? And the key with activities, and that's probably the simplest natural way to, is to increase your aerobic output. It’s not to say that just aerobic is the only way to get exercise, weightlifting can be something that can be done. So, there's swimming, there's biking, there's dancing, there's gardening.
Brad: Now, if you're not familiar with the term aerobic, that doesn't mean you have to go to aerobics class, where people are wearing everything and doing the jumping, and having fun. It's a good way to do it, but you may not feel comfortable, you can go for a walk.
Chris: Yup a walk. A brisk walk, 30 minutes, five days a week.
Brad: There you go. So, that's not a big deal. Well, if you're a sedentary person, that is a big deal.
Chris: It is a big deal.
Brad: You may want to start out walking five minutes.
Chris: Yup, Rome was not built in a day. So, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, but you're ready to make these lifestyle changes so that hopefully we can keep you off from medication, it's just a little bit at a time. Baby steps, I think it's a real approach, because actually the last thing we want is an injury. And you always want to do this in accordance with what your doctor feels is safe for you. So, we can't stress that enough.
Brad: Right. You don't want to overdo it. And that can be a big thing. If you've been diagnosed, you're maybe at stage one, you're at that borderline stage and your doctor has talked to you about it, it's like, I better get after this. You might think, well, my father died from high hypertension.
Chris: Yeah. And he was 56 years old or something like that.
Brad: Exactly. And I know this one guy, he wanted to run a half marathon and he started at age 60, hadn't run before. But he did it appropriately. He actually hired a trainer.
Chris: All right.
Brad: And it took him six to eight months, more like eight months. And he did it.
Chris: That's a phenomenal goal.
Brad: That's an option. He didn't have high blood pressure problems, but he knew that if he went after it too aggressively he's going to hurt himself.
Chris: Yeah. And that's the last thing you want to do is put you back on the couch. I mean, other than they'll have to come and see you, or they’d have to come and see me for something for pain but I mean, from that standpoint. But basically when we get to those levels (130-139/80-89) up to stage one, and that's about when your doctor is going to start to say, "all right, how are we doing on the diet?"
Chris: So, we want to look at that too. So, they talk exercise and diet. So, one of the biggest guilty causes of blood pressure and a lot of us don't know about it, is just the amount of sodium we eat.
Chris: Salt. Yeah. So, we want to read packages. There’s your favorite saying, “don't buy anything out of the middle of the store,” and I say, “don't buy anything out of boxes.” For the most part, it's one of those things where that's a lot of the foods that are not natural, are packaged and prefabricated, and they're processed, highly processed. Processed food, they add salt in there and sugar for flavor. And so it's those dead calories and that sodium. And that sodium can make you retain water, which when you retain water that makes your heart work a little bit harder, more vascular resistance, higher blood pressure.
Brad: I always think of it like a balloon, you know, you put more water or air in the balloon and it just gets more and more pressure built up. And that's really what's going on in your system, your vessels are taking in all that water and it's blowing up those vessels and the pressure goes up, heart has to work harder. And then also we have some arthrosclerosis.
Chris: Yeah. So, the hardening of the arteries. We have to be careful, there's a lot of other things that once we get that word hypertension, there's a lot of other things can go sideways. So, it can affect our organs, like our kidneys, it can affect our eyes, obviously it's our heart, it's our circulation. So, there's a lot of things going on because there could be strokes, there can be heart attacks, vascular dementia, memory issues. So, there's lots of things that we have to be extremely cautious with, when we start to hear this and why we're going to make this commitment to ourselves, to help to naturally lower our blood pressure.
Brad: Sure. So, and yeah, the thing is these problems you talked about, the vascular problems, well, the stroke too, but all these things kind of accumulate, over time.
Chris: Over time. Exactly.
Brad: So, and you could be up to 140 over 90, and feel perfectly healthy. And maybe you haven't seen a doctor for 5 or 10 years. It's like my grandmother, she never saw the doctor until she went into a nursing home. Luckily she was healthy, she didn't need to, but she wasn't going to anyways. She was stubborn, you know.
Chris: Yup. Exactly. There's a lot of us like that though.
Brad: If you have a problem like stage 2 (140+/90+), and then you find out after you've had it for 10 years, maybe your vessels are already hardened and you're having serious problems.
Chris: Yeah think of your blood vessels as kind of like supple spaghetti. They're just kind of a very flexible tissue. And so basically when something's pushing hard against it, in a case of like an aneurysm it's stretches, in the case of just hardening the arteries, you've got all this resistance force, pounding against it because that pump is working so hard, that they just kind of harden. They aren't quite so supple. There's some debris building up in there.
Brad: Which actually makes the blood pressure go up more.
Chris: Go up more because it narrows the arteries and vessels. And that's what we have to be so careful with.
Brad: So it's a compounding effect?
Chris: Yes. It's not just one simple thing. Hypertension or high blood pressure is the word, but there's so many other things going on. And you know, for every 10 points in blood pressure, your risk for cardiovascular problems goes up like 20%, each time. And so many of us, because again it's the silent killer, we don't feel blood pressure, we just generally don't. Some people say they'll have a headache or they get a nosebleed. I guess they're the fortunate ones, not that it's fortunate to have a headache or a nosebleed but they actually have a symptom. It's a symptom that shows you that, hey I need to figure out what the heck's going on. But for those of us that are just walking around for 10, 15, 20 years, you know, are healthy as a horse, feel great, and all the sudden you go in for that doctor appointment because maybe it was an insurance thing or maybe your wife made you go or your husband or whatever. And all the sudden you get this number, like, oh my gosh what am I going to do? This is why we have to be careful a lot.
Brad: So, it might not be a bad idea if you're going to a store, some have a blood pressure machine were you sit and put your arm in there and takes it that way.
Chris: Absolutely. They're regulated, they're always very accurate. So, I think you can feel comfortable with that. We'll give you at least a good guideline or thumbnail sketch of where it is. But again, when we're taking our blood pressure even in a store or even at home, we want to make sure we're sitting in that proper posture. Both feet on the floor, relaxed. You want to give yourself about five minutes of sitting before you actually hit the trigger if you're in a store.
Brad: So, you relax?
Chris: Yup, because you want to get an accurate reading. Because if you just rush in and, boy, I don't feel really good, you get it set. You know, you'll just jump in all of a sudden, yeah, oh my gosh, I'm 170 over 110, oh my goodness, what am I going to do? Well, then all of a sudden if you rest for five minutes, and it comes down to somewhere like, 120 over 80. So, that’s not very accurate. You were in a hurry, driving and traffic, had a cup of coffee, I mean, there's a lot of factors.
Brad: And then, you may want to take it a few times. Because there's a little red flag there. Well it's pretty high does it jump up there often?
Chris: Yup, you want to wait another couple of minutes and repeat it.
Brad: Yeah. So, let's say you've been diagnosed, you've know you've got high blood pressure or you know you're in the elevated stage, stage one, you're going to work with exercise and diet. We are not nutritionists, we're not dieticians, but we can give you some good, solid, basic introductory. And we talked about the salt already. Any other things besides looking at making sure there's not much salt?
Chris: Yeah, you're going to want to go with lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein. You just don't want tons and tons of basically animal fat or if you're a vegetarian or vegan, obviously you want to get your protein sources through nuts and things of that nature, soy. So, there's a lot of good things that are actually heart-healthy in that. And like I said, vegetarians, I always kind of liked because you know, they generally are eating a lot of the right things. It's hard to meet somebody that's having a lot of health problems when they're vegetarian. Not that you can't have lean meats and protein. To me, I couldn't live without it. I need to have meat. I would not feel right. Maybe even be a crabby person.
Brad: And that's a personal thing,
Brad: You can work around that. As far as exercise, we did mention walking. But start out slow. I mean, there are some people, they may be overweight already, very sedentary and they'll go of for a 10-minute walk, could just literally be exhaustive. So, you might start out with a two or three-minute walk.
Brad: And build it up week to week. My typical rule of thumb for people who are starting out exercising like that, is not more than 10% increase per week.
Brad: So, if you walked, let's make it easy, 10 blocks week one, week two you're going to go 11 blocks.
Chris: 11 blocks.
Brad: That's 10%. And so it's like a slow and you know, you don't have to do the math, it doesn't need to be perfect.
Chris: No. But you know its mental math, it might stimulate the brain too. So, that's always good.
Brad: Well, there you go, exactly. So, start out slow, it can be walking, if you want to get into jogging, stationary bike, things of that nature, you can do inside the house are all acceptable.
Chris: Yard work. I mean, raking leaves. This time of the year eventually we're going to be shoveling because we're up here in Wisconsin, or Minnesota. It's one of those things where anything that you find an activity that you can gravitate to, that you enjoy, I think that's really the most important thing.
Brad: There you go.
Chris: You can repeat it and do it day in and day out where you're not thinking it's a chore. You want to just say, hey I really look forward to getting my daily walk, hey, I look forward to getting out in the garden or I look forward to pushing my lawn mower. There's lots of things that people can do and it can be resistance training, it can be Pilates, it can be Yoga. I mean, there's a lot of good things that happen with different forms of exercise.
Brad: So, you say resistance training, it can be weights, but you don't have to have weights, you can use stretch bands in your house. You don't have to go and spend a lot of money. It's just a matter of doing it. There's a lot of YouTube videos, just go to Bob and Brad we've got a lot of exercises.
Chris: A couple of videos.
Brad: Yeah. Mostly with stretch bands. We don't do much with weights. Just not what Bob and I have a history of doing personally as well as clinically. It's a great way to exercise with your balance, strength, a number of things there. I do want to talk a little bit more about because we didn't touch on like diet and far as specialty foods, not specialty, but flaxseed. We actually did a video. Bob's wife did some flaxseed diet; you can watch that video. They both say, boy, her blood pressure came down as a result of it. What's the science or what does the research say about things like that?
Chris: Yeah, you know, it’s a little bit of a mixed review, but I think more positive than negative. I do think that with flaxseed and flaxseed oil, both products may be used, it's got Alpha-linolenic acid, that's the active ingredient and it's the big fancy term for your Omega-3s, the healthy fatty acids that kind of help to maybe keep blood vessels more supple. They may help to lower cholesterol. They may help to kind of lower your blood pressure. So, with these ingredients, there's a couple of different ways you can attack it. Some people like the oil, some people like capsules, some people can grind up the seeds and put it in their food. You can bake it; you can throw it in your oatmeal. So, there's a lot of healthy ways that you can add flax to your diet and actually get some really good positive benefits. With consistent use, that's where I think you might see the blood pressure lowering effects occur.
Brad: And this is one of the things, if I understand this right, there's really no negative effect. Maybe the research shows it doesn't do anything, but is it going to do any bad thing, bad side effect?
Chris: Generally, it sometimes can cause a little bit of GI side effects but that is so rare and so remote. And I mean you'd probably have to be throwing too much flax, you'd be taking a quarter of a cup.
Brad: Shoveling it in.
Chris: Yeah. So, a little too much.
Brad: So, flaxseed is a healthy thing.
Chris: I would call it a thumbs up. I don't think it can do anything wrong. It's no different than adding fish to our diets. So, if you're eating fish two to three days a week, that's another really good healthy protein to put in your diet, particularly fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Those types of things actually have those good essential fatty acids, which are very cardio protective.
Chris: And when you see diets around the world, the Americanized diet doesn't have fish as a staple, maybe on the East coast and West coast where it's a little bit easier to get to it. But when you go to some of the Island nations or Japan in particular, they have some of the lowest incidences of blood pressure as a whole because of their diet.
Brad: But they say it's from diet?
Chris: Diet. They’ve done some studies, these are older studies, but when they've come to the United States and they've moved here for a while and they get acclimated to our Americanized diet, blood pressure goes up. So, a lot of that's from the salt and things that we eat so. Although there's kind of an interesting study in Northern Japan, that actually when we talk about essential hypertension, which is when we get to this stage one, we don't know why it's caused, but it is. But the Northern region of Japan, eats the saltiest diet per capita in the world. And that's just a small population of people, but they have so much salt in their diet, and there's a large increase in blood pressure. And then when they studied the people that just don't like salt, none of those guys have the blood pressure issues like the people that are on the high salt diets.
Brad: Oh, so, they do? They're in Japan but they love salt and their blood pressure is higher?
Chris: Yup. So, even though they're eating the fish and the protein, that salt or sodium just seems to be that limiting factor. So, it's something to be real mindful of. And when you're actually looking for levels, as we talk about food, a lot of people like flavor, so, salt is an easy thing to put in there. The standardized measure that they say is about 2300 milligrams is what we want. And a low salt diet is considered 1500 milligrams.
Brad: But what does that mean?
Chris: Yeah. So, it's kind of hard to figure that out. So, basically a level teaspoon full, if you took a measuring spoon and you filled it with those white crystals of table salt, and you scrape it off the top, that's about 2300 milligrams. So, that's your daily allotment for salt. So, when we talk about reading boxes and food stores and what the sodium content is in say cereal and bread, bread is like a sneaky ingredient that has a lot of sodium in it to make it taste good.
Chris: Yeah. You want to look for low sodium options, especially when we're starting to get up into these higher levels. So, look for low sodium on your packaging. We want to get used to reading stuff in the grocery store before you buy it.
Brad: So, bread's got a lot of salt in it?
Chris: Yeah, it does it's kind of tricky. And you know, things like lean meats like turkey and ham even they have a lot of sodium in there. So, you want to be careful.
Brad: As part of the processing?
Chris: Yeah, that's the deli meats, so you want to be really careful with that. So, you'd be probably better off, you know, bake some chicken and use that for your sandwiches and things.
Brad: Then you control what you put into your diet.
Chris: When you're controlling it, exactly.
Brad: Yeah. So, there's a lot of things diet wise that you can do just by being observant and reading the labels, and you may be reading a book or doing a little research, watching some YouTube videos. It can go a long way to getting that blood pressure down in a nice, relaxed manner. And I'm feeling very relaxed now, Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Well, there you go. That's the other thing, stress is actually one of the other contributing factors of hypertension and blood pressure. So, it's something that's a lifestyle change. So, it's something that we do want to be mindful of. So, whether it's meditation, reading, taking a walk which again is more on the exercise, but you want to find some time to relax. If you have a stressful job, stressful lifestyle, a lot of us with this COVID situation, our lifestyles are very different these days, and maybe we can't be as active as we want or we're trying to work the job, trying to get the kids through their virtual learning modules. I mean, so there's stress on people that may not necessarily recognize that they're approaching some of these levels. So, just taking a few minutes to try and relax is actually still very important. It goes a long way with trying to help to keep that blood pressure under control.
Brad: Right, yeah. That's from the neck up mostly.
-Chris: It is, but there's so many things that, in our Americanized society and actually I would say worldwide, I think everybody is tending to get busier and busier based on things that I read. Taking a little bit of me time is important. Even though maybe as a busy parent or a single parent, it's not always that easy. You know, if you can find 15 minutes for yourself just to relax. Whether it's finding a book, doing a puzzle, just something. Staying relaxed, seems to have a very positive effect on blood pressure.
Brad: Makes sense to me. All right. Well, I'm feeling relaxed now, I'm feeling much better, my blood pressure is down a little bit, I think I'm going to relax for the rest of the afternoon.
Chris: All right, well sounds good.
Brad: All right. Well, thank you for watching. And once again, we can fix anything except for-
Chris: A broken heart, but we're trying.
Brad: Yeah this fits right in. We're going to put it in the archives and into that category.
Chris: Yeah, well hopefully we'll help a couple of people.
Brad: Yeah. It's nothing to joke around about seriously, but we're doing a little bit of it here.
Brad: All right, take care.
Chris: Have a great day guys.
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