14 Ways to Maintain a Normal Blood Pressure During the Holiday Season
Don’t Let Your Blood Pressure Sky Rocket During the Holidays
Did you know that Christmas Eve carries the highest risk for a heart attack, followed by New Year’s Day and Christmas Day?1 It makes sense. Even if you normally eat well, exercise and take vitamins and minerals, it’s easy to get side-tracked and stressed out during the holidays. And stress is the #1 contributor to high blood pressure. High blood pressure (BP) is called the silent killer because if your BP is high, you may not feel any differently than you normally do. Furthermore, it’s the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Learn about the ways to maintain a normal blood pressure in the winter & during the holidays.
What Exactly is Hypertension?
Hypertension and blood pressure are different terms for the same thing. Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the force of blood passing through blood vessels is above normal. The increase in pressure then forces the blood to hit the blood vessel walls.
What Causes Hypertension?
Hypertension is usually a result of a combination of stress, high cholesterol, inflammation and sticky blood platelets.
Why is Hypertension Dangerous?
It’s called the “silent killer” because it is insidious. It often has no warning signs or symptoms.
If your blood pressure is high it causes strain on the vessels carrying blood throughout your body. This can injure the vessels and lead to plaque buildup as a response to injury.
Eventually, this can lead to narrow blood vessels and then clotting of passageways, which can cause damage to the heart and/or brain. High blood pressure ultimately increases your risk for getting heart disease, kidney disease, dementia, and for having a stroke.
Taking Your Blood Pressure
When your doctor takes your blood pressure, he/she is measuring the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. The heart contracts and relaxes during each heartbeat. When it contracts, the blood is being pumped out of the two ventricles (chambers) and your blood pressure goes up. Systolic pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) is the peak reading of the pressure produced by this contraction. When the heart relaxes, blood fills the ventricles and your blood pressure goes down. The diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the blood pressure reading) measures the pressure between the beats as the heart relaxes.
What’s Normal Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure used to be considered 140/90 or higher. However, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (a division of the Institutes of Health), normal blood pressure is now considered to be less than 120/80 according to the guidelines released in November 2017.
14 Ways to Support Healthy Blood Pressure and a Healthy Heart.
1. Continue eating a nutritious, high-fiber, low-fat heart healthy diet, despite the festivities.
2. At most, Limit yourself to one or two small servings of desserts.
3. Watch your intake of sodium. Resist the chips and dips.
4. Include foods high in phytonutrients—fruits and veggies.
5. Take nutritional supplements proven to support a healthy heart: magnesium, potassium, B vitamin complex, Beetroot extract, vitamin D3, CoQ10, Grape seed extract, Resveratrol, Quercetin. *
6. Avoid decongestants if possible. These drugs can raise blood pressure and can also reduce the effectiveness of prescribed blood pressure meds.
7. Don’t forget to take your normal meds and supplements.
8. Practice a stress reduction technique such as yoga or meditation.
9. Don’t end up being a couch potato. At the minimum, take a walk 3-4 times a week.
10. Stop smoking!
11. Go easy on the alcohol.
12. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day.
13. If you snore, have sleeping problems, or are sleepy during the day, discuss sleep apnea with your physician.
14. Give yourself the gift of peace and get plenty of rest and sleep.
These Nutrients Have Been Proven to Support Healthy Blood Pressure
Beetroot contains high levels of dietary nitrate (NO3), which the body converts into biologically active nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). As a result, in the human body, higher NO levels relaxes and dilates blood vessels. A meta-analysis of 16 clinical trials was published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2013. The researchers looked at 16 clinical trials and found that “Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.” 2
CoQ10 is a critical catalyst in the production of cellular energy and antioxidant protection. It is especially critical in producing energy in heart cells. Since the heart has the highest concentration of CoQ10 of any organ in the body, it is very sensitive to low levels of CoQ10. So sensitive that some experts believe the heart would stop beating if deficiency levels reached 75%. The body makes CoQ10 from the amino acids tyrosine and methionine.
But since therapeutic amounts needed far exceed what your body can make or absorb from food, supplementation of CoQ10 is strongly recommended. Also, as we age it becomes more and more difficult for the body to produce enough CoQ10. An 80-year-old person has approximately half the CoQ10 levels of a 20-year-old. Body levels of CoQ10 are also influenced by stress, cold, illness, high blood pressure, hormone concentrations, physical activity and prescription drugs— including some cholesterol-lowering medications — which can deplete CoQ10 levels. Several clinical studies involving small numbers of people suggest that CoQ10 may lower blood pressure.
However, it may take 4 to 12 weeks to see any change. In one analysis, after reviewing 12 clinical studies, researchers concluded that CoQ10 has the potential to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mm Hg, without significant side effects. 3
Research has shown that people with higher vitamin D levels are more likely to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop hypertension. In addition, studies have shown that taking a vitamin D3 supplement can reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. 4
Grape Seed Extract
Grape Seed Extract is an excellent source of proanthocyanidins or OPCs. OPCs are antioxidants that help support healthy arteries and circulation. A meta-analysis of 16 clinical trials that included 810 patients found that grape seed extract definitely has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, and even more so on younger or obese individuals.5
A 2017 clinical trial that investigated the effects of resveratrol (RESV) in patients with hypertension found that the addition of RESV to standard antihypertensive treatment decreases and efficiently controls blood pressure. Therefore, this indicates that the addition of RESV to standard antihypertensive therapy is sufficient to reduce BP to normal levels. This is also without the need for additional antihypertensive drugs, which is common in many patients.6
Quercentin is a compound present in onions, red wine, green tea and other plants. It contains health-enhancing phytonutrients that may help protect against inflammation and free radical damage. So, it helps keep the lining of your blood vessels flexible, which is important for supporting healthy blood pressure. A study done at the University of Utah, found that quercetin supplementation reduces blood pressure in hypertensive patients. 7
Despite the stressors that come with the Holiday season and winter, it is always important to maintain your own health and try to stay balanced. You can choose to make some minor lifestyle changes in order to maintain a healthy blood pressure, or integrate key foods into your diet. Make sure to finds ways to support your blood pressure so you can embrace all of the wonderful parts of the holiday season!