In my last blog post, we talked about the importance of monitoring your blood pressure regularly. But what do you do if your blood pressure levels are high, or borderline high? There are several things you can (and should) do to control high blood pressure as a woman.
1. To Control High Blood Pressure, Be Careful with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): In 2004, results were published from the Women’s Health Initiative, a study including women taking Premarin. The women taking this pharmaceutical form of estrogen, (made from the urine of pregnant mares), were observed to have “skyrocketing” blood pressure levels. But Premarin is not the only HRT that causes high blood pressure.
Dr. Sinatra has noted that Provera, another HRT mainstay, drove up blood pressure in the women he treated, many of whom were no longer hypertensive once they discontinued the drug.
What we’re learning is that to control high blood pressure, individually tailored bio-identical hormone therapy from more natural plant and synthetic sources are better for women. Combining estradiole, estriol, estrone, testosterone, and progesterone may soften those arterial walls that can stiffen with age, and may even intercept elevating blood pressure. So please consider this approach if you are on the traditional HRT medications, especially if you’re trying to control high blood pressure.
2. Watch the Painkillers: A report from the Harvard School of Medicine’s ongoing Nurses Health Study, published in the September 2005 issue of Hypertension, concluded that women are at increased risk for high blood pressure if they take daily doses of non-aspirin painkillers such as extra-strength acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
If you take painkillers regularly and are trying to control high blood pressure, please ask your doctor for safer recommendations. What we use at our house—and it works well for various muscle aches and pains—is Traumeel, a homeopathic remedy you can find in health food stores. Traumeel is available in both a topical cream and a tablet that you place under your tongue.
3. Control High Blood Pressure with Some Simple Changes to Your Diet: To control high blood pressure and keep your heart healthy, you want to increase your intake complex carbohydrates (like oatmeal); low-glycemic vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and kale; legumes like chick peas and lentils; fruits; cold-water fish (especially fatty ones); organic eggs; olive oil; and nuts, seeds, and flaxseed.
At the same time, to control high blood pressure you want to decrease your intake of refined white flour and sugar, partially hydrogenated oils, starchy vegetables like corn and peas, processed fruit juices, organ meats, cashews (because they’re high in saturated fat), full-fat dairy products, and omega-6 oils (such as corn, safflower, and sunflower).
4. Eat More Garlic: An Australian review of 11 studies in which hypertensive patients were randomly given a garlic supplement or placebo, found that garlic can lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs. On average, the mega-analysis turned up blood pressure reductions of 8.4 systolic points, and 7.3 diastolic points. The higher a patient’s blood pressure was at the beginning, the more it was lowered by taking garlic.
To control high blood pressure, I recommend four cloves of raw garlic (about four grams) daily to achieve a noticeable blood pressure lowering effect. You could also toss crushed garlic into food for the last few minutes of cooking, but anything more than lightly warming it will destroy its medicinal properties to control high blood pressure.
5. Control High Blood Pressure with Exercise: Regular exercise is a sure way to help control high blood pressure. Physical activity also lowers levels of stress hormones circulating in the blood, which is important since stress tends to constrict arteries and drive up blood pressure. To control high blood pressure, you want to strive to exercise three to four times a week. Try taking a brisk walk, getting on your bicycle, playing noncompetitive golf or tennis, or even dancing —all of which are great for your blood pressure and your stress level. Even simple day-to-day activities like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further back in a parking lot, or a leisurely walk, are helpful to control high blood pressure.
6. De-Stress—It’s a Surefire Way to Control High Blood Pressure: Stress is a major mitigating factor when it comes to your blood pressure, so be aware of the psychological pressures you’re juggling. Overachieving and time urgency are all-too common “normals” for women. We juggle multiple roles as breadwinner, wife, daughter, mother, and friend that often involve nurturing others at our own expense if we don’t refuel.
Some good ways to de-stress and control high blood pressure include meditation, relaxation, imagery, yoga, prayer, Tai Chi, exercise, reading, listening to calming music, or playing with children and friends into your daily life.
Also remember that not all venting is “complaining.” Talking with someone you trust about the stresses in your life, benefits your wellbeing—and helps you control high blood pressure.
Lastly, remember to stay positive! No woman is sentenced to a life of high blood pressure because of her DNA. It’s not our destiny! Our blood pressure reading is only a number, and it’s one we can lower with our own conscientious lifestyle changes, and medication if needed.
Watch for more information about women and high blood pressure in Dr. Sinatra’s monthly newsletter, Heart, Health & Nutrition. You can also visit www.drsinatra.com for more information on natural ways to lower blood pressure.