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Understanding Blood Pressure Readings and Seven (7) Foods that can help you to Manage it, Naturally!

According to the World Health Organization, high or raised blood pressure is estimated to cause over 7.5 million deaths, which is about 12.8% of total deaths.  Worldwide, persons aged 25 years and older is said to contribute to around 40% of the total incidences of high blood pressure in 2008. While the proportion of persons with high blood pressure or uncontrolled hypertension was reduced slightly between 1980 and 2008 that number has dramatically increased to over 600 million then to almost a billion in 2008.  

Blood Pressure is described as the pressure of blood flow in the circulatory system. As such, when the heartbeats, it plump blood that is pumped all over the body.  The blood that is pumped is what provides the body with energy and oxygen it needs for us to survive.  As the blood circulates through the body, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels.  The impact of this ‘pushing’ is what is categorized as blood pressure.

Due to the fact that high blood pressure is a risk fact for certain disease particularly stroke and heart disease, it is usually one of those markers that are usually tested when you visit the doctor. While there are medications available for the management of this condition, usually in the form of calcium blockers, there are foods that have been shown to be able to help with this condition, particularly as it relates to lowering high blood pressure.  

In this article, we will discuss seven (7) of those foods which include, beetroot, blueberry and the famous seasoning, garlic. Let’s discuss!

The Discussion

Blood pressure reading is the result of two (2) forces – systolic blood pressure (SBP) and Diastolic blood pressure (DBP).  When the blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries and thus the circulatory system that is considered the first force of the blood pressure or the highest pressure – the systolic pressure.  As such, it is the number at the top of the fraction.  The second force of the blood pressure is the reading that is generated as the heart rests between heartbeats.  This is called the second force or the lowest pressure – the diastolic pressure and the number that is placed at the bottom of the fraction. 

As such, a normal blood pressure reading would look like this 120/80 millimetres of mercury or mmHg where the 120 would be the systolic pressure and the 80 the diastolic pressure.  As such, in a normal blood pressure reading, the systolic pressure should be less than or equal to 120 while the diastolic pressure less than or equal to 80 (American Heart Association).

One blood pressure reading can be considered high, normal or low.  However, it only takes one of the numbers (systolic or diastolic) to be higher or lower than it should be for a reading of high, low or normal. As such, if the top number (systolic) is 140 or more, you are considered to have high blood pressure, regardless of what the bottom number says.  On the other hand, if the bottom number (diastolic) is 90 or more, then you are said to have high blood pressure. 

Additionally, if the top number of your reading is 90 or less than you would be considered to have low blood pressure, regardless of what the bottom number says. On the flip side, if the bottom number of your reading is equal to or less than 60 then you would still be considered to have low blood pressure, regardless of what your top number says. If you check your blood pressure and get a reading that exceeds that of 180/120 mmHg, and remains as such after re-checking, see your doctor immediately as this is what would be considered a hypertension crisis

If this reading remains the same after you re-check your blood pressure, it is advised that you seek immediate Doctor’s attention as this could cause organ damage, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, numbness etc. (Bloodpressureuk.org).  You can view this is a tabular form in the Illustrative Section of this post.

While there are medications available for the treatment of high blood pressure, most times, these medications are recommended along with lifestyle changes which include one diet and physical activities.  As such, in this article, we will be exploring seven (7) foods that have been shown to lower blood pressure as well as help in the management of the condition on a general basis. The foods that will be discussed are – Cherry, beetroot, blueberries, garlic, cinnamon, Oatmeal as well as foods high in potassium such as (sweet potatoes, cucumber, ripe bananas, broccoli and spinach).

You can learn more about vitamins and minerals in the articles below as well as the different foods you can find them in these Posts:

Which number is more important (Systolic or Diastolic Pressure)?

Both numbers are important as both are used to diagnose if you have high blood or low blood pressure.  However, it is said that Doctors typically give more attention to the systolic blood pressure (the top number) as it is seen as a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, especially for persons over the age of 50 years.  Additionally, according to heart.org, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease or stroke is heightens with every increase of 20 mmHg systolic pressure or 10 mmHg diastolic pressure for persons between the ages of 40 to 89 years of age.

Seven (7) foods that can help with high blood pressure:
  • Cherry.
  • Beetroot.
  • Blueberries.
  • Garlic.
  • Cinnamon.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Foods high in Potassium
1. Cherry and Blood Pressure

Cherries are known nutrient-dense food which is low in calories as well as contain many nutrients such as fiber, polyphenols, vitamin C and potassium (McCune et al. 2011).  While there are many varieties of this fruit, the most popular ones are sweet and tart.  According to research, both can have a positive impact on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.  However, some research has shown that tart may be more beneficial for blood pressure.

The effects of cherries on high blood pressure was observed in a study by Keane, George et al. 2016 as well as Kent et al, 2016 where it was found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure was lowered within two (2) hours of consuming 300 ml of sweet cherry juice from the Bing Cherries varieties. However, the participant’s blood pressure returned to baseline levels after six (6) hours.

Additionally, in a 6-week study of diabetic women, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure was significantly reduced after the consumption of tart cherry juice concentrate of 40g per day.  It must be noted that the effects of the cherry juice were experienced just after 1 and 2 hours after ingestion (atai-jafari et al, 2008).  The results were not this significant after the consumption of sweet cherries concentrate of 200 ml per day.

You can read more on the cherry and blood pressure along with cherries other benefits in this article:

2. Beetroot and Blood Pressure

Research has shown that consuming beetroot juice on a low nitrate diet may help to lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

In a controlled double-blinded randomized study conducted by Coles & Clifton, 2012 with thirty (30) participants’ men and women (15 men and 15 women), the participants drank 500 g of beetroot juice as well as a placebo juice.  The participants who drank the beetroot juice experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure six (6) hours after drinking the beetroot juice relative to the placebo juice group.  The reduction in blood pressure was also seen to be more potent in the men participants than women.

The potential of beetroot as it relates to the lowering of blood pressure was said to be due largely to its high inorganic nitrate levels, which has proven to decrease blood pressure as well as improve cardiovascular function (Cosby et al. 2003).

You can read more on the beetroot and blood pressure along with beetroot other benefits in this article:

 3.  Blueberries and Blood Pressure

Research contends that the consumption of blueberry may help to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as improve arterial stiffness which is usually seen in postmenopausal women with pre-and stage 1 hypertension. This was observed in a double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted by Johnson et al. 2014 over an Eight (8) -week period where participants, after consuming 22g of frozen-dried blueberry powder mixture experienced a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 

It must be noted that over 48 participants of post-menopausal with pre and stage-1 hypertension.  The participants randomly received both the blueberry powder as well as a control powder of the same proportion.  In addition to the reduction of blood pressure, the participants who consumed the blueberry powder mixture experienced a reduction if arterial stiffness due in part to beetroot’s ability to increase the production of nitric oxide and its vasodilatory effect (Johnson et al. 2014).  The credence of blueberries effect on blood pressure is also due to its high anthocyanins and photochemical properties.  These powerful compounds are the ones that give blueberries their dark pigment.

In another study published online by the Journal of Gerontology in 2019 in February 2019, it was found that just consuming 200g (almost 1 cup) of blueberries daily for a month could improve the function of blood vessels and as such, decreased systolic blood pressure. The research also purports that blueberry, in addition to controlling blood pressure; it could well assist in preventing people from developing hypertension as well (https://www.health.harvard.edu/).

4. Garlic and Blood Pressure

In a systematic review and meta-analysis study in 2010 by a group of Australian Scientist led by Dr. Karen Reid from the University of Adelaide, and published in the open-access peer-reviewed medical journal looking at the effects of garlic preparations on blood pressure.

In this analysis, 25 randomized controlled trials were reviewed with 11 being used in the meta-analysis.  In most of the studies, participants were given doses of 600 mg to 900 mg of garlic powder daily from 12 to 23 weeks.  The participants that were recruited for the studies were those who were in the high range for blood pressure.

The study found that that garlic preparation was able to reduce systolic blood pressure by 4.6 mmHg more than a placebo group. Additionally, the diastolic blood pressure was also reduced, but not significantly.  However, in the studies with persons who had high blood pressure, it was found that both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 8.4 mmHg and 7.3 mmHg respectively.  However, no effect was observed in persons with normal blood pressure.

Additionally, statistical analysis of the results confirmed that the higher one’s blood pressure was at the start of the study, the more significant was the reduction in blood pressure via the garlic preparation.  As such, the duration of the treatment did not affect the results.

5. Cinnamon and Blood Pressure

In a systematic review by Akilen et al. 2013 on patients with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, it was found that cinnamon intake was able to significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5.39 mmHg and 2.3 mmHg respectively over the short-term.  As such, the researchers concluded that cinnamon shows hopeful effects on the lowering of blood pressure in the short-term.  More studies are needed though to observe the effects on a long term basis.  Notably, no particular amount was mentioned as being used in these reviews.

Hypertension is said to be common with persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus (Vijan and Hayward, 2003).  As such, Cinnamon is said to have insulin potentiating attributes and may be able to improve on the signs and indications of diabetes as well as the lowering of blood pressure in persons with this condition.

This was further confirmed in a study by Ziegenfus et al (2002), it was found that cinnamon was able to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as fasting plasma glucose.

6. Oatmeal and Blood Pressure

 In a randomized, controlled parallel-group pilot study conducted by Keenan et al (2002) to assess the antihypertensive effects of soluble fiber- rich whole oat cereal over a six (6) week period, it was found that oatmeal consumption was able to reduce both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by 7.5 mmHg and 5.5 mmHg respectively.  No change was seen in the group that was just on a low-fiber cereal.  It was also observed that oatmeal (high fiber) was able to improve insulin sensitivity.  The oat group also experienced a significant reduction in both total cholesterol (by 9%) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 14%.

The researchers concluded that adding oat cereals to the normal diet of patients with hypertension could significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.  Soluble fiber-rich whole oats may be an effective dietary therapy in the prevention and adjunct treatment of hypertension (Keenan et al, 2002).

7. Potassium-rich foods and Blood Pressure

Potassium role in blood pressure regulation is widely established as it is stated to be the most abundant intracellular ion (Staruschenko, 2018).  As such, consuming more potassium-rich foods can help to lower blood pressure as the more potassium ingested, the more the body will release or lose sodium through the urine. Potassium is also said to have the potential of easing the tension in the walls of the blood vessels, which further helps to reduce blood pressure.

Foods high in potassium include raw apricots (259 per 100g), avocados (485 per 100g), both ripe and green bananas; coconut water (250 per 100g), oranges (181 per 100g), raisins, dates, watermelon, sweet raw sweet potatoes (337), pomegranates and lima beans which are said to have 220 per 100g.

Illustrative Summary

Here is a summary of Blood Reading along with the seven (7) foods that can help to manage BLOOD PRESSURE.

Understanding Blood Pressure Reading

Let’s Sum Up!

High blood pressure has been named a ‘silent killer’ as most times, its effects are not felt.  Further, long term untreated high blood pressure can damage critical organs of the body which include the kidney.  While there are conventional treatments in the form of medication that is able to reduce the incidences of high blood pressure, those do not come without a dose of side effects.  Further, these medications are usually given for a person’s lifetime.

Nonetheless, research has shown that a proper diet and exercise can help with the management of this condition.  As such, there are foods that can help to not only provide short term reduction of blood pressure, some have been shown to be effective over the long term.  Some of the foods include cherry, both sweet and tart varieties, beetroot, blueberries, oatmeal, garlic among others.

Blood pressure doesn’t have to silently kill us, if we do our part in ensuring that we eat healthily, check our stats regularly and visit the doctor if things are uncontrollable, ensure we include the right foods in our diet coupled with exercise; we should experience great health, not only in the short term but throughout our lifetime.

You can read more cherries and beetroot in the articles below as well as learn more about vitamins and minerals:

You can also download the printable free versions of the vitamins and minerals EBook below:

References
  • Akilen R, Pimlott Z, Tsiami A, Robinson N. Effect of short-term administration of cinnamon on blood pressure in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Nutrition. 2013;29(10):1192-1196. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2013.03.007
  • Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Geoffrey Istas, Lisa Boschek, Rodrigo P Feliciano, Charlotte E Mills, Céline Boby, Sergio Gomez-Alonso, Dragan Milenkovic, Christian Heiss. Circulating anthocyanin metabolites mediate vascular benefits of blueberries: insights from randomized controlled trials, metabolomics, and nutrigenomics. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glz047
  • Ataie-Jafari, A.; Hosseini, S.; Karimi, A.; Pajouhi, M. Effects of Sour Cherry Juice on Blood Glucose and Some Cardiovascular Risk Factors Improvements in Diabetic Women. Nutr. Food Sci. 2008, 38, 355–360.
  • Coles and Clifton: Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 2012 11:106.
  • Cosby K, Partovi KS, Crawford JH, Patel RP, Reiter CD, Martyr S, Yang BK, Waclawiw MA, Zalos G, Xu X, et al: Nitrite reduction to nitric oxide by deoxyhemoglobin vasodilates the human circulation. Nat Med 2003, 9:1498–1505.
  • Global Health Observatory (GHO) data https://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/blood_pressure_prevalence_text/en/, retrieved, August 28, 2020.
  • Johnson, Sarah & Figueroa, Arturo & Navaei, Negin & Wong, Alexei & Kalfon, Roy & Feresin, Rafaela & Elam, Marcus & Payton, Mark & Arjmandi, Bahram. (2014). Blueberries exert antihypertensive and vascular-protective effects in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension.
  • McCune, L.M.; Kubota, C.; Stendell-Hollis, N.R.; Thomson, C.A. Cherries and health: A review. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2011, 51, 1–12.
  • Meneely GR, Ball CO. Experimental epidemiology of chronic sodium chloride toxicity and the protective effect of potassium chloride. Am J Med. 1958;25:713–725. 
  • Meneely GR, Ball CO, Youmans JB. Chronic sodium chloride toxicity: the protective effect of added potassium chloride. Ann Intern Med. 1957;47:263–273. 
  • Johnson, Sarah & Figueroa, Arturo & Navaei, Negin & Wong, Alexei & Kalfon, Roy & Feresin, Rafaela & Elam, Marcus & Payton, Mark & Arjmandi, Bahram. (2014). Blueberries exert antihypertensive and vascular-protective effects in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension
  • Keenan JM, Pins JJ, Frazel C, Moran A, Turnquist L. (2002).  Oat ingestion reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild or borderline hypertension: a pilot trial. J Fam Pract.

  • Keane, K.M.; George, T.W.; Constantinou, C.L.; Brown, M.A.; Clifford, T.; Howatson, G. Effects of Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) consumption on vascular function in men with early hypertension. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2016, 103, 1531–1539.

  • Kent, K.; Charlton, K.E.; Jenner, A.; Roodenrys, S. Acute reduction in blood pressure following consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice may be dose-interval dependant: A pilot cross-over study. Int. J. Food Sci.  Nutr. 2016, 16, 67, 47-52.
  • Ried, Karin & Frank, Oliver & Stocks, Nigel. (2010). Aged garlic extract lowers blood pressure in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension: A randomised controlled trial. Maturitas. 67. 144-50. 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.06.001.
  • Staruschenko, A. (2018). Beneficial effects of high potassium. Hypertension, 71(6), pp. 1015-1022.
  • Vijan S, Hayward RA. Treatment of hypertension in type 2 diabetes mellitus: blood pressure goals, choice of agents, and setting priorities in diabetes care. Ann Intern Med. 2003;138:593-602.
  • Ziegenfuss TN, Hofheins JE, Mendel RW, Landis J, Anderson RA. Effects of a water-soluble cinnamon extract on body composition and features of the metabolic syndrome in pre-diabetic men and women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3:1.

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