Need to drop your blood pressure by 30 points? Well, I hate to admit it, but I did. About six months ago (in late 2010) I had my blood pressure taken and was appalled. I remember that the systolic was a little over 140 and the diastolic a little over 90, 143/93 I believe.
By the way, I think the PA that took it was shocked at my reaction, because I was so concerned. She said the usual stuff you hear, "Don't worry about it. That's not that bad of a reading and our pressures vary significantly anyway."
That was no comfort, though, for me, because I know better. Read my link on Erectile Dysfunction and Hypertension and you'll see why. Hypertension puts your heart, brain and love life all at tremendous risk. The primary problem is that the extra force hammering against your veins, capillaries and arteries causes damage over time, damage that leads to stroke and endothelial injury. Furthermore, it's not just high blood pressure (>140/90) that has been shown by the research to be a problem, but even pre-hypertensive blood pressures (>120/80 and < 140/90) show an increased risk of cardiovascular issues. So her words were no comfort to me.
Over the next few months I measured it many times and found it was always at least 135/88. What I found really baffling was that I was doing so many things right. For example, I was religiously exercising daily and ate a (dang near) Low Fat Diet. My cholesterol has been in the 120's and 130's for several years. Furthermore, my blood pressure had always been excellent and below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, so none of this made any sense. I even had a great page on How to Lower Your Blood Pressure and I followed just about everything on it.
A few possible culprits came to mind:
1. Coffee. About the time my blood pressure went up, I had started drinking coffee and backed off of tea. If you read my link on The Health Benefits of Coffee, you'll see that coffee has recently been exonerated from causing hypertension. However, maybe I was sensitive?
2. Stress. Stress can very strongly raise blood pressure levels. In fact, one problem that doctors have is that some patients' blood pressure readings will always be higher in their office simply because the patient is subconsciously nervouse about the readings. This is one of the many reasons I recommend a (good, upper arm cuff) blood pressure monitor so you can measure it at home.
If I'm honest, I have to admit that I really do not know what pushed my blood pressure into early stages of hypertension. What I can tell you is that I tried several changes and the combination of them dramatically lowered my blood pressure over several weeks.
CAUTION: Always consult with your doctor before making any lifestyle change, especially if you have high blood pressure or some other medical condition.
Here is what I did and it lowered my systolic by 30+ points and my diastolic by 20+ points.
1. Zinc. I quit taking supplemental zinc and instead concentrated on consuming zinc-rich foods.
2. Coffee. I quit coffee except for one cup in the early morning.
3. Black Tea. I began drinking again glasses of black ice tea per day. You'll have to buy my book for details, but black tea is a proven blood-pressure lowering drink.
4. Raw, Unprocessed Cocoa. I also drink 2-3 cups of raw, unprocessed cocoa per day. See my link on Loco for Cocoa for more details.
5. Salt. I watched my salt intake very carefully. I actually got to the point where I do not any salt to my food. And, to be honest, I do not miss it any more. (Most men do not realize the negative impact that excess salt can have according to the studies. See my links on The Many Ways Salt Can Kill You and Salt and Erectile Dysfunction for more information.
6. UPDATE: Dietary Nitrates. This I added later: beets and other high nitrate foods. See my link on A Review of Beet the Odds by Nathan Bryan for more information. But a teaser: these can lower blood pressure for up to 24 hours after consumption!
Now I have to admit that I don't know which of these five actually lowered the blood pressure. My opinion is that what really made the difference is #3 and #4. When I began consuming tea and raw cocoa, I saw my blood pressure drop dramatically. In fact, I have had a couple of readings around 95/60 and so backed off on the cocoa, as I do not want to go too low!
Also, for those of you with hypertension or pre-hypertension, keep in mind that I already do a lot of things to hold down my blood pressure, including eating lot of grains, fruits and vegetables, especially those outlined in my book and daily exercise. However, put it all together and perhaps you can achieve similar results. (And work with your doctor first!)