BLOOD PRESSURE AWARENESS WEEK
This week is Blood Pressure UK’s 'Know Your Numbers Week', so I thought it would be a good time to focus on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. How can you reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure or, if you’ve already been diagnosed with high BP, let’s take a look at the things you can do to get it under control.
There are some well known indicators for high blood pressure: a family history of similar health problems, carrying too much weight, smoking, not exercising, being under stress and eating the wrong foods, especially too much caffeine, salt and sugar. However, some patients don’t fit into any of these categories and, for some unknown reason, they have high blood pressure.
In a herbal consultation we work with the patient to try and reduce risk factor, to help them make diet and life styles changes and hopefully, by working together, we can correct the balance before stronger drug intervention is needed.
The first step is to KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Working with Blood Pressure UK, our Napiers Clinic and D.Atkinson Herbalist team are offering free blood pressure checks all this week. We can help you with advice, support and a practical action plan for your next steps. We can suggest herbs, supplements, diet and lifestyle advice and if necessary we may ask you to have an appointment with your GP.
Let’s look at how it all adds up.
Herbs can help by supporting cardio vascular health and blood pressure: Listed below are my three top herbal suggestions:
Hawthorn leaf, flower and berries
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp), has a long traditional use in supporting the management of mild heart problems, including high blood pressure and circulatory disorders. It is considered to be cardio protective. There have been a number of clinical trials on using Hawthorn, showing that it can reduce blood pressure, especially in those with a borderline problem.
Used for centuries for its healing properties, the scientific community has woken up to the blood pressure lowering effects of Olive leaf. Clinical trials have shown that 500mg of Olive leaf daily is enough to reduce systolic blood pressure by an average of 11 points. Olive leaf was also shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
A lovely gentle nervine with a very mild diuretic action. This delicious tasting herb helps one’s body to cope with stress: a vital component of blood pressure management.
Garlic is a real superfood and its benefits have been appreciated by humankind for hundreds of years. A study by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2012 has suggested that 200mg of garlic powder three times daily may reduce blood pressure.
Garlic is certainly one of my top 10 herbs of all time. I add it raw to salad dressings, eat it finely chopped off a teaspoon to prevent colds and prescribe it in capsules to many patients. Never go for the odour free version, the actives are in that pungent smell. But if you eat garlic regularly, your body will adapt and you won’t have any backlash.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) who conducted a placebo-controlled trial in dozens of patients found that one glass of beetroot juice a day is enough to significantly reduce blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure. There are high levels of inorganic nitrate in beetroot which converts to nitric oxide when ingested, which, in turn, relaxes and dilates blood vessels. You can also get good amounts of inorganic nitrate in salad leaves and cabbage.
Swap salt for spices
We all know that we need to cut down on our salt intake so try flavouring your food with spices instead. Make your own mixture to ensure that there is no added sodium: for example try thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary or for something spicier why not throw in some turmeric, cardamom, cumin, paprika or marjoram.
Oats are another amazing food and source of many health benefits. High in cholesterol reducing fibre, oats also improve digestive health. If you are, like me, a fan of Michael Mosley, you will have see his ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ programmes. He showed how oats can lower cholesterol, thereby supporting a healthy cardiovascular system. (Volunteers ate 75g of oats a day, equivalent to three servings.) Oats are full of fibre and any form of fibre - whether it is from grains, legumes (beans and lentils) or vegetables, is likely to lower cholesterol by binding with fat and cholesterol in the gut and stopping it being absorbed.
Celery extract has been shown in animal studies to help prevent stroke, improve blood flow, and act to protect the brain and enhance energy production.
A study, published last year in the American Journal of Hypertension, showed that eating watermelon is good for heart health and can reduce the risk of heart problems in cold conditions.
Flaxseed oil has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure due to its omega-3 fatty acid content so this is a great vegetarian alternative to fish oil.
Research from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, has found that performing aquarobics in warm water can lower blood pressure even in people for whom medication has not worked. It’s thought that this works because the warm water dilates blood vessels which then improve the flow of blood through the whole body. But moderate regular exercise will improve overall fitness and can help to reduce blood pressure.
We are offering FREE BLOOD PRESSURE TESTS in our shop all this week. Just drop by and check out your numbers. We’ll also be collecting donations for CalAid Edinburgh’s work helping Syrian refugees.
Get more information On Blood pressure UK’s Know Your Numbers campaign here: http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/microsites/kyn/Home