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Keeping the Pressure Down – Blood Pressure, That Is

About a year ago, I had several people that I know talking with me about their high blood pressure and how difficult they were finding it to keep it under control even with their prescribed medications. Most of them say that they take their meds as directed and follow their doctor’s dietary guidelines and were still having trouble keeping their numbers in an acceptable range. I wrote another blog post a couple of years ago that I have since rewritten with my updated information added in here.

Obviously, exercise plays a key role our health and it’s true for blood pressure as anything else, even though the mere mention of this usually gets me an eye-roll, but I digress. Getting enough sleep is also very important as is maintaining a healthy stress level – sometimes considerably easier said than done which is when something like Tai Chi or Qigong can be beneficial.

When people ask me about Qigong, I usually begin by saying that it’s a moving meditation. For me, at least, that is exactly what it is and I always feel so much more relaxed and in tune with myself and with my body when I’ve been able to do it. And despite my genetic predisposition towards high blood pressure, mine always tends to be on the low end. Is that because of Qigong? Possibly.

Hawthorn leaf and berries

Hawthorn leaf and berries can be powerful BP regulators.

Supplements are another rung in the ladder to health.  For blood pressure, without fail, I recommend Hawthorn. Hawthorn has, for hundreds of years, been used throughout Northern Europe and parts of Asia as an effective natural treatment for hypertension. What’s magickal about this gem is that it can also regulate blood pressure in the other direction – and it does it without being told!  Still, for decades, this effective natural remedy has been nearly forgotten and replaced by pharmaceuticals (big surprise, right?). Thankfully, there have been new studies done and the benefits of hawthorn are being recognized once more  If you are interested, I make a delicious Hawthorn elixir available at my Old World Apothecary soon to be in New Ipswich, NH but also here online. (Yup, that was my shameless plug for the day.)

And then there’s diet. (Usually followed by another round of eye-rolling.) There are lots of foods that can be invaluable in the quest to maintain healthy blood pressure and most of them taste really good. Think celery, granny smiths, blueberries, and broccoli for starters. And if you’re not really up for eating them, I have a recipe for a blood-pressure friendly smoothie than can be healthful, helpful, and just plain yummy, but first let’s discuss the ingredients and what makes them good for lowering blood pressure.

  • Granny Smith apples. Yup! Though Red Delicious are also very good for you. Why? Well, the skins of these apples contain a phenolic compound that prevents the cholesterol that gets into your system from solidifying on your artery walls. Therefore, you’re less likely to get plaque build up, because plaque is yucky no matter where it is!
  • Blueberries. What, really? Yup, that’s right. Because blueberries, like the apples already mentioned, help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries due to a compound called pterostilbene. AND, last but hardly least, berries are anti-inflammatory.
  • Celery. You’d better believe it. It is rich in potassium and contains Phthalide (3-n-butylphtalide [3nb]), a compound which helps to give celery its unique aroma and taste.This compound works by relaxing the smooth muscles in the vessel walls and allowing blood to flow more freely.
  • Cucumber. I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy cucumbers and here’s a great reason to add them into your diet: They contain potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and copper, all of which support a healthy cardiovascular system. Copper is known to help produce elastin, keeping the skin, veins and arteries supple. Sounds like a winner to me!
  • Bitter melon (bitter gourd). This is one I love, but it took me awhile to get used to it. These are best known as a fantastically powerful way to control diabetes, but, they are very low in calories and packed with precious nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and dense in dietary fiber. Bitter melon is also rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. These babies are no joke!
  • Parsley. Seems like a modest, unassuming herb in the garden, but according to the results of a study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” in October, 2007, parsley has been shown to work as an anti-hypertensive agent in a similar way diuretics work. It contains vitamin C which is known to prevent hardening of the arteries. It also helps to dissolve the sticky gunk in your arteries and maintains the elasticity of your blood vessels.

Good stuff all around. So, without further ado, here’s that smoothie recipe I mentioned:

Green smoothie

Photo from the web – not my own – but it’s an accurate depiction of what this smoothie looks like.

Branwen’s Pressure Valve Smoothie

1 cored organic Granny Smith apple
1/4 C fresh organic blueberries
2 stalks organic celery (with leaves)
1/2 large organic cucumber
1/4 organic bitter melon
4 sprigs fresh, organic parsley

Blend everything together until smooth and enjoy! The bitter melon can be an acquired taste, but I love them and if needed, you can always add more apple or a less of the bitter melon.

One precaution to keep in mind if you’re pregnant: Bitter melon has been known to contain certain chemicals that can start menstrual bleeding and have caused abortion in animals. Please speak to your doctor before adding this to the smoothie if you are pregnant.

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