Blood Pressure

Blood pressure can be affected by a number of factors. Most people know about the connection between high sodium (salt) in the diet and high blood pressure. Sodium is one of three major electrolytes in the body. How is it that sodium controls blood pressure? In order to understand this it’s necessary to know that our body is designed to operate with greater amounts of potassium than sodium. The kidneys filter out more potassium and holds onto the sodium. For millennia the human diet consisted mainly of plant foods that are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium. It is only very recently that high amounts of sodium have been added to our diet (especially in processed foots). Most of us have sodium-potassium ratios that are hugely unbalanced. This is why low salt (reduced sodium) diets are prescribed. This addresses the sodium part of the equation but does not address the other part of the equation, namely the potassium. A 2010 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that the effects of consuming more potassium are “of similar magnitude to what can be achieved by lowering sodium intake.”

A simple way of addressing this is to mix 3 parts potassium chloride salt (eg. Salt substitute called No Salt) with 1 part regular sodium chloride. Then use this salt to flavour food and cooking as you normally would.

A study done in Taiwan in a chronic care facility showed that substituting regular sodium chloride with a potassium-sodium chloride mixture cut the deaths due to cardiovascular disease by 33 percent.

Not everyone with high blood pressure has a salt sensitive mechanism but improving the potassium-sodium balance has many other health effects.

Other dietary habits that contribute to high blood pressure includes high consumption of sugar, starch, alcohol and caffeine.

If you have excess weight, lose it. Excess weight has a far greater effect on blood pressure than even cardiorespiratory fitness.

Nutritional supplements are also utilized to reduce blood pressure. Supplements that have a beneficial effect on blood pressure include Vitamin D, Vitamin C and other antioxidants, Coenzyme Q10, magnesium, hawthorn, fish oil, Bcomplex vitamins and flavenoids such as quercetin. Talk to your health care provider about the combination that would be most helpful for you.

It is also recommended to obtain a blood pressure monitor and monitor blood pressure on a regular basis at home. This has been shown to be more representative than the sporadic BP readings obtained at a doctor’s office.