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Ep. 20 – How can I lower my High BP?

With just about half of the adult population in the USA having hypertension, “how do I lower my blood pressure” is a common question. Dr. Chet’s initial response would be to ask what have you been doing for yourself. Chet takes a look at hypertension on today’s episode of Straight Talk on Health.

Welcome to Straight Talk on Health. I’m your host Dr. Chet Zelasko. Together with WGVU in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I examined the latest and greatest in the world of health. Whether it's research that makes headlines, another miracle diet, a new supplement or an exercise trend. I Look at the science behind these things and let you know whether it's real or not. You can check out other things that I do on my website: drchet.com, and sign up for my free emails.

The tagline for my website emails is: “What are you prepared to do today?” Now, took us a long time to settle on that several years ago. It's a line that I first heard in the movie, The Untouchables, just modified a little bit. What are you prepared to do, Mr. Ness? That was Sean Connery and I don't his brogue any justice. But that's always my first response. What are you prepared to do today?

And so, one of the things that I've asked you over time, or I've been asked over time is “I need to control my blood pressure.” Dr. Chet, what am I supposed to do? How can I do it? Can I avoid take medication? And, know the code. The code is when some people e-mail me, what they really want to know is “what can I do to not take medication? What can use supplements are there?”

Well, let me just say this: There are none. That is the way this works. Everything that you need to do to lower your blood pressure naturally, you can do. Now there is a form of natural hypertension where there's nothing that you can do because it's genetically based and that's just the genes you're dealt. But for 80% of the people, there's something that you can do about it. I did a little research on how many people have hypertension in the United States. You know, it's somewhere around half of almost all adults. So when you consider the child population, the adults are considered 18 and older that works out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 115 million people have some form of hypertension or as we know, high blood pressure. I will tell you that as you were in the doctor's office and they took your blood pressure and they may have said get one of those blowup cuffs and I want you to track your blood pressure, and I want you to come back in 6 weeks with all the readings, taking it this time and this time… That's not the only thing that they said. They gave you maybe a pamphlet. Maybe the doctor talked about the things that you should do to help reduce your blood pressure. Not everybody focuses on stress. Does stress always raise blood pressure? Not necessarily. It depends on the on the type of stress that it is. If you are an actor, if you are used to performing in whatever job that you have, whether you work in a call center, whether you are a team leader, you get used to that and your blood pressure doesn't go off the chart. Now, when things don't go well. Yeah. That's something where, I recently talked about the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a fight or flight type of hormone and he could be released in higher amounts.

The bottom line is, there's plenty of things that you can do to naturally lower your blood pressure. You know, maybe you listen to what your doctor said, maybe you did not. But, we're going to talk about that right now, because this is the most natural way that I know because it's the way that I hope control my blood pressure.

Number one thing that you got to do is you've got to exercise regularly. You can't get around it. You know, even when you have just only a few minutes, whatever you can do is required. And I’m going to use that word required because you don't have to worry about exercising.

But, for example, today, as I got ready to get out of the house, I had about 20 minutes that I could use. And so, I dug into my repertoire of workouts and the thing that I can do in 20 minutes, is an interval training. And so for 3 minutes, go easy. And for 30 seconds bust a gut. Turn up the resistance on the exercise bike and go as fast as I can go for 30 seconds and make sure that it's painful, at least for myself, and then turn it down for 3 minutes and every 3rd minute, that's what I did for 30 seconds. And then I slow down a little bit near the end. Would I have liked to go longer? Yes, but did I need to go longer with it? No. Research shows that the high intensity interval training works to help with blood pressure. So does low and slow walk. You know, a lot of people say that the best piece of exercise equipment is your dog because you've got to take them for a walk. And I've seen people do a lot of different ways in my neighborhood. Not that anybody in my neighborhood listens to this show as much as I would like them to, but they get their little wagons and put their dogs in it and they walk their dogs that way because they are very small dogs, I guess. And but they're out there walking. So they're getting the benefit of walking their dog.

Unless you're in the blood pressure crisis. What do I mean by that? Well, if for whatever reason you find out your blood pressure is 300 over 200. You've got to get that under control pharmaceutically. That's a given. But if you're not there, even if your blood pressure is a little high, one 50 over 80, then exercise. Nothing will help you get your resting heart rate lower or your blood pressure lower, than regular exercise. You don't have to do what I just described but you can go out for a 15-minute walk, twice a day, and that's the beginning is more required. Maybe. But that's one place that you can begin.

Again. There's nothing that helps your blood pressure better than exercise will. And I don't have time to go into all the details of what happens to your blood vessels or what happens in your heart. Just trust me. Those things will happen. Number two, lose weight if you need to. On a recent show, I talked about the number of blood vessels that are in the pound of fat, which is somewhere between one and 5 miles.

Whatever that number is, the fact is that your heart has to pump harder to be able to force the blood through it, so that those cells can be oxygenated. That puts a lot of strain on the heart. And so if you need to lose weight, you don't have to do it all once. You can do it a little bit at a time, you know, cut from a dinner plate to a salad plate, which is what I recommend everybody do. And fill up, only once, but that's a way to start the process.

And, you know, sometimes you just don't miss it. If you do it gradually that way. It's like boiling the frog. Put him in cold water turn the heat on, and slowly but surely raise the temperature and before you know it, frog’s cooked. And he never realized he was in hot water to begin with. One of the things that isn't talked about enough is to raise your potassium intake from foods. Everybody focuses on lowering sodium and not saying you shouldn’t. Lowering sodium is beneficial. But, what we have in this country is a real lack of potassium intake. And so I did a little bit of research. If the target for sodium is between 2 3,000 milligrams a day, then potassium should be at least 6,000 per day from food.

Now, where are you going to get potassium? I was surprised when I looked at one of the greatest sources is a baked potato. The 3 ounce baked potato as almost 1000 milligrams of potassium. Or one cup of cooked spinach, is just about 600. One cup of yam or sweet potato, 500 milligrams. One cup of tomatoes or tomato juice. One cup of orange juice or medium banana or 8 ounces of the low fat yogurt and those all contain at least 500 milligrams of potassium. And there are actually a seafood and meats that also contain potassium. So rather than take the negative approach and say, “I got to get rid of all the sodium and throw out all the salt shakers.” No, what you really need to do is increase our potassium because those 2 things work together.

So if you want to pay the price of having too much sodium intake, then you've got to eat more vegetables and you've got to eat more fruit and or at least drink them. I mean, that's what’s sort of critical.

Are there any types of other things that you can do? As I said, the last thing that you should think of is supplements? Because there's really not much that you can do. If you do all that you can with exercise diet and weight loss and you still have high blood pressure, then you've got to think about the medications. You know, it's usually a diuretic first, then an ace inhibitor. And then finally a beta blocker to slow down your heart rate.

You don't have to go that route. If you can spend the time in changing your lifestyle, the way you change your lifestyle, is going to be important to your overall health and whether you can get your blood pressure under control. So I'll leave you the way I end my e-mails this time. What are you prepared to do today? Your body? Your choice. I’m Dr. Chet Zelasko.

Straight talk on Health with Dr. Chet Zelasko was recorded in the studios of WGVU Public Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views and opinions expressed on Straight Talk on Health are not necessarily those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University. Episodes are found at wgvunews.org and wherever you get your podcasts, please rate and subscribe.

Dr. Chet Zelasko is a scientist, speaker, and author. Dr. Chet has a Ph.D. and MA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education from Michigan State University and a BS in Physical Education from Canisius College. He’s certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist, belongs to the American Society of Nutrition, and has conducted research and been published in peer-reviewed journals. You can find him online at drchet.com.
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