How to Lower Blood Pressure - From Someone That Did It
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How to Lower Blood Pressure - From Someone That Did It

My entire life I have struggled with high blood pressure, however I have learned to maintain it at a healthy level without depriving myself of the things I love.

I have grown up around food; so of course, it wasn’t a surprise when I finally decided to open up my own restaurant and share an archive of richly made cuisine and ethnic specialties. However, when we adopt eating habits that include these types of foods--Italian for me--your health and wellness start to become an issue. Increasing amounts of sodium, along with a lack of time to spare for exercise, drove my blood pressure through the roof.

Today, I have had to really rearrange my life to incorporate all of the things I need to maintain my blood pressure at a healthy level. It's been a challenge with my busy school schedule, and the fact that I have been skipping meals on top of that--well you see where I was headed. After a long conversation with my friend who's a medical doctor, and my father who's a self-proclaimed exercise junkie, I found the perfect combination of food and exercise that helped me hit my targets for optimum wellness.

Don't Skip Meals

Did you know that skipping meals can actually cause higher blood pressure? To put it simply, when you start skipping meals, it throws off every aspect of your body. For many, like myself, I would get even more agitated when faced with minor issues, therefore causing a peak in blood pressure. Not only that, when I did sit down to eat my one meal of the day, I would eat over 2000 calories in one sitting, and out of the total calories I had consumed, most of them were flooded with sodium.

So what did I do?

I started eating six meals a day. My first meal of the day would usually consist of oatmeal, raisins, and a little skim milk. It doesn't sound that tasty, but trust me, oatmeal is proven to lower blood pressure, and I'm not talking amount instant oatmeal that's filled with sugar from the package that you just add water to. I mean Quaker Oatmeal that's low in sodium and is heart-healthy.

I also cut out egg yolks. Now I strictly use eggs whites, and trust me, it wasn't that hard to ween myself off of regular eggs.

For lunch, I started eating salads, tuna with low sodium mayonaise; cheese and crackers (Sharp Cheddar is great with Wheat Thins--Mmmm); low sodium soups-there's something that's extremely hard to find. 

For dinner, most of the time it's a light pasta recipe that only uses Olive oil, a bit of broth, and fresh vegetables.I stopped using canned or jarred tomato sauces because of the high content levels of sodium. To be honest, I think I got a bit lazy not making my own after the restaurants, due to lack of time and fresh ingredients.

Stop Eating Processed Food from the Middle Aisles of the Grocery Store, and Shop on the Perimeter

This was a difficult task for me, as I'm sure it will be for many of you. I had to actually stop myself from shopping the inner isles of the supermarket. If you think about, that's were every article of food that contains high fats, high sodium, high sugar and carbs, and high calories tend to be found. If you stick to the perimeter of the supermarket, you will actually find everthing you need to keep your blood pressure down, lose some weight, and maintain healthy levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in your body.

I would suggest staying clear of some red meat cuts found on the perimeter, especially ribeyes and rib roasts, skirt and hanger steaks, TBones, and Porterhouse. Round cuts are the best, considering the animal tends to more exercised and leaner in that area. The Filet Mignon, although many people--like myself don't care for them--is also a great choice for a lean meat. Just remember, the more the fat marbling, the better the flavor, the more weight you will gain. It's sad but true!

Cut Down on Caffeine and Higher-Sodium Drinks-Don't Completely Stop

This goes for diet soda, coffee, regular soda, Powerade, Energy Drinks, and some caffeinated teas that are not natural or organic.  I am a religous coffee drinker, however I replaced my coffee with organic tea and sparkling water. I haven't cut myself off completely, I mean are you crazy? I still have a couple cups a week, but nowhere near what I was consuming.

As for soda, you have to let it go. Whether it's diet or regular, the combination of the sodium and carbon allows for the expansion in your stomach. Furthermore, it eats away the lining of your stomach and causes ulcers. People have a sore spot when it comes to diet soda, and I know some of you are religious soda drinkers; however, those diet sodas are just as bad as regular no matter what the calories.  According to Dr. Lovell at Daytona State College, diet soda fools your body into thinking that you're not consuming sugar, however your body is smart and it will seek out the Nutrasweet and convert it to fat.

Powerdrinks are filled with high energy, heart-pumping, blood-pressure-increasing energy which can lead directly to a heart attack if not used in moderation. Of course, it would be virtually impossible to list all of the drinks and brands that do this, so if you're not sure don't purchase them. Most of these drinks were made with atheletes in mind as the target demographic, not couch potatoes that don't make it to the gym more than once a year.  

Cut Out Oil and Regular Butter

The oil you will find in my home is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and as for butter, I use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray (used in moderation of course) which has 0 Fat and 0 Sodium. I haven't used real butter in over ten years and my cholesterol levels have never been better.

Olive oil is not absorbed into your system, so anything you eat with it usually gets flushed out with it. As for regular oil, Vegetable Oil is sufficient in moderation, but I would try to start cooking everything with Olive Oil. 

Fiber Is Your Friend

Yes that's right, the more the merrier! Fiber scrapes the inside of the lining of your stomach and takes with it food debris that may have hung out a bit longer without the added help of this little debris-scraping devil.

Try adding some of these food items to your diet at least 4 times a week:

  • Quaker Oats Oatmeal
  • Whole Grain pasta
  • Fiber One or All Bran Cereal
  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Dried Fruits with Low Sugar
  • Oranges
  • Apples with skin
  • Kidney beans, lima beans, black-eyed beans, chick peas and lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Green peas 

Cardiovascular Exercise At Least 4 times a week

Yes, that's right! Four times a week, not three. Personally, I prefer brisk walking which is by far the best exercise for lowering blood pressure. You need to stay away from weight machines, especially machines that use heavy resistence. For women, you shouldn't exceed over 10 lbs of free weights. As for men, and this is from my father who also suffers from high blood pressure, he uses up to 30 lbs and that's it. He's in better shape now than he was when he was 20, so trust me it works!

Recipes for Low Blood Pressure

Here are some of my recipes from my restaurant vault to get you started. Yes, they are all Italian, but I'll give you a bit of a tip. Italian is versatile, and with the addition of fresh vegetables, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and tons of garlic which is proven to lower blood pressure, you have all the right choices in your corner.

Garlic Flatbread with Roasted Garlic and Sundried Tomato Spinach Toss

Chef Lauren's Osso Bucco

Chef Laurens Sicilian Style Penne Mediterranean Pasta

Note: All of these tips listed helped me lower my blood pressure from 151 over 90 to 120 over 60. My cholesterol levels were over the 200 mark and now they are running steady at 160.

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Comments (25)

Excellent advice.

I tend to 'forget' to eat breakfast... Having worked nightshift for nearly 20 years, my 'day' doesn't begin until noon. For the last 5+ years, I have been getting up at 6-AM sharp but my body does not ask for breakfast until 4 or 5 hours later often. I wish this was not the case. Anyway, great article and reminder to eat at every meal, smaller portions and oftener

Excellent advice for all of us, even those with normal Blood pressure.

Great article and nice info. BTW, how they allowed you to leave three recipe links at the last of the text? They removed my links, unhappy here.

I'm not sure why they allowed me to do that Chan. I guess they never noticed.

Links about food and presumably, healthy and delicious? I would say they are related.

Hey Stick. Yes, healthy and very delicious.

good article, luckily twinkies are on the perimeter of my grocery store.

You are lucky Daniel. Send me some, I won't tell.

Great article Lauren, keep up the good advice, I'll be back for more.

Thanks so much for your comments every. Just as an update. I started, no joke, with a blood pressure of 154/110. Very bad! I now have lowered it to 134/84 over the past month using this plan.

Very good advice and since I do have a blood pressure problem I had better be doing some of this. Thanks for reminding me.

Teresa, trust me it works. When I had mine recently checked I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I started to cut out all the foods I love and that's when it made a difference.

I cut out alcohol entirely and stopped frying anything. Stopped salty snacks like crisps, salted peanuts and biscuits and my blood pressure was down to near normal within two weeks. Watching what you eat and drink really does work.

Thanks for this, Lauren. I too cut back my blood pressure a few years ago through correct eating and exercise, but I seem to have slipped lately. This is a timely reminder for me.

Thanks for these tips Lauren. I have had high blood pressure almost a year ago. I adopted a pesci-vegetarian diet. No sodas, nor caffeine nor any junk food. It worked for me. Just two weeks ago, my doctor said I don't need any more my maintenance medicine. My blood pressure has gone too low at 110/70. I'm back to my treadmill and just walk a mile and a half whenever possible.

Solid and informative article, Lauren. Great read. I had no idea ones diet could affect their blood pressure.

Again, great advice. My Dave had a stroke 5 years ago. With just the two of us to cook for my menu uses everything as close to its natural state as possible. We consume so much salt that it takes time and effort to retrain our senses to enjoy the suttle natural flavors of foods. Growing your own fruits and veggies makes this easier. Lauren, I'm suprised at you for not making your own low-sodium soups. Freeze a batch in individual servings for the hectic times. Even if you just do the broth so you can add different ingedients is worthwhile.

Congrats on lowering your blood pressure -- very cool.

I need to lower my BP too..

@Page Thanks so much. I feel a hundreds times better. @Stick Trust me, this worked. I am now 120 over 60. I used to be 151 over 90

great advice

I'd hate to burst your bubble, but you're wayyy better off eating a pat of butter here and there (real butter, that is) as opposed to that "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" garbage. Our bodies know, accept and need real food, not that manufactured crap. Remember what happened when people were dropping dead of heart attacks in the 80s and 90s, and doctors told us to cut out fat altogether? They told us we'd be better off eating foods with 0 fat in them, and recommended margarin and other non-dairy non-fat spreads? It did the total opposite--more and more people were reporting higher and higher levels of bad cholesterol and dying more than ever of heart failure. They finally figured out that omitting good fats from your diet, and substituting with 0 fat foods and spreads rather than real butter put your body in shock. When you go on an extremely low fat diet, your body will think it's being deprived of much needed fats and start over producing bad cholesterol to compensate--that spells trouble. So, none of that "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" stuff--it will raise your bad cholesterol which will in turn, raise your blood pressure. My two-cents. Thanks for listening! :-)

@Lucia Thanks so much

@DailyGrind

I don't use the spray all that often anymore. I just use if I'm craving buttered popcorn.

However, my cholesterol dropped substantially after using it and Olive oil. My blood pressure also dropped from 151 over 60 to 120 over 60, so I'm thinking it may have made a difference for me.

The olive oil I use is not low fat. It's 14g of fat per Tbsp. As for butter, I haven't used real butter in over ten years and my blood pressure and cholesterol is the best it's ever been. I don't believe every study or doctor out there because everyone's body reacts differently to certain foods.

I follow the same plan my father does and he's 70 with a body like a body builder.

I remember all the people getting sick from the Oleen was it called? However, how much were they actually eating? I use a spray of butter when I crave it which is not often. These people were practically drinking that crap.

Impressive change in your blood pressure numbers. Like you mentioned the store bought soups are so high in sodium, making your own soup is the way to go if you are a soup lover. Healthy and filling. Favorite homemade soups around here are tomato, vegetable and butternut squash. Not hard to make and really low in sodium. Plus they can last all week and are much cheaper than store bought soups.

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