Learn more about blood pressure and its impact on our bodies in this episode of Food is Medicine.
Jim: Hey everybody, I’m Jim Czupil. My wife and I own Five Bridges Health and Fitness, and I’m here with John Brown, our registered dietitian at the club. Today, John and I are going to talk a little bit about blood pressure and the impact food can have on it, whether you have good blood pressure, high or low. And, John, I guess, kind of starting out, we really want to talk about, let’s make get a sense of, what could someone do to improve their blood pressure, high or low? Just what are some of the things that people have in their control?
Jon: Yeah, high blood pressure is much more common, and if I had to give an elevator speech, the short story is less sodium, less processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. Sodium tends to drive up blood pressure, and you know, the potassium helps to kind of counteract that and lower the blood pressure. And the common problem we have is people just eat too many processed foods and not enough fruits and vegetables. So blood pressure can get out of balance even with about you know being overweight or obese or any other risk factor like that. This sounds simple, blood pressure is the amount of pressure inside your blood vessels, but that’s influenced by you know, the fluid, the nature of the fluid in your blood., the more complicated term is called viscosity, describes how thick a liquid is., so you think of you know your blood is mostly water, but there’s many things dissolved in it like sugar and sodium. The more of any of those things you know put into that concentration, the thicker the blood is, and the thicker the blood is, the more force is required to you know squeeze the blood. And think of the blood, it’s there, the blood vessels there, there are muscles that kind of guide those contractions. So if you had some kind of you know rubber tube, you know it would be much easier to squeeze a liquid through it if it was made of water versus you know think of like honey on the extreme end of things that takes more pressure. Other things that influence blood pressure, you know if you have a blocked artery, any resistance in inside an artery forces you know again it takes more pressure to get the to get the blood through. But yeah, when we when we talk about blood pressure, we measure it there’s like 120 over 80 is typically how we think of that the higher number is the one you know that’s like the maximum blood pressure, that’s the pressure of your blood coming right out of the heart, and the lower number would be the the lower end of things where pressure, you know that’s more of the at the very end of the you know of your like fingertips, think of your more fine arteries having that lower blood pressure, so that’s typically you know the range. And generally, when we hear about blood pressure in the news, the culprit always seems to be high blood pressure, that’s what they hear people talking about.
Jim: And I’m assuming people could have low blood pressure as well, what dictates one’s pressure being high versus low?
Jon: In my world you know, there’s a lot of nutrients at play. We talked a little bit about, you know high blood pressure being caused by lack of potassium and too much sodium typically., low blood pressure can be caused by things like, you know, a vitamin B12 deficiency, sometimes the hormones that regulate blood pressure can be off, there are various genetic factors at play there, and similar to you know like a low blood pressure or a you know with high blood pressure that’s often caused by sodium, sometimes people with low blood pressure can actually benefit by, you know having some more sodium. Another big thing to think about that I missed from the last question is, you know, we talk about you know what is blood pressure, a big part of that is how much water is in the tubes. So the more water, the more pressure. Being dehydrated, if you have low blood pressure, you know, working against what you should do. So making sure at the end of the day, it’s all about fluid balance.
Jim: Let me talk about blood pressure. If our contention is that food is medicine and it impacts blood pressure, what are some of the some sort of like superfoods to control blood pressure? And you mentioned that some of the culprits are around like processed foods and those kinds of things. But you know, if you were sitting here talking to people about healthy food that’s going to help blood pressure, what might they be?
Jon: In terms of the superfood world, bananas are a pretty pretty high source of potassium. When we when people talk about potassium, they I think they associate bananas with, cramping and that kind of thing.,So bananas are a big one. Things like kiwis, spinach, leafy greens, even a lot of nuts and seeds are fairly high in potassium. And there are many nutrients that play, you know, we often reduce it to potassium. Like we mentioned with B12, you know, we know magnesium has an effect on blood pressure. You’ve seen different other things like, even stress is related to blood pressure, you’re not getting enough sleep, making sure you’re active enough., so food can only support so much, you know, we have to kind of you know look at the big picture, you know, make sure there’s not other irritating factors, but that’s why in general it’s more of uh you know Whole Foods in the in the form of fruits, vegetables, not seeds, even whole grains, things with fiber can kind of help on that end. You want to think about you know if you have issues managing your blood sugar, you know if you’re having like a high carbohydrate meal, it’s processed carbs, if that’s spiking your blood sugar, that’s also going to spike you know your blood pressure because that at the end of the day is a concentration. So for that period, you know, it’s looking more that that blood sugar spike is going to cause uh transient increase in your blood pressure. So to manage that, something like a whole grain, add some protein, that protein and fiber as well as fat can help to kind of slow any response like that. At the end of the day, your body likes to stay within a tightly regulated system and a lot of our processed food can kind of counter that, so just getting back to a more Whole Food form tends to be the roundabout answer to that question.
Jim: I think a lot of us, myself included, you know, we’re not always lining up for the leafy vegetables and all those kind of things in the natural foods, and so I know there’s a whole world of supplements out there in terms of natural supplements. Are there things people can take along with their diet that are going to help them in this, you know, regulating the blood pressure and keeping it within acceptable ranges?
Jon: Yeah, the Magnesium is one that can help, that tends to be related to heart health and is a commonly deficient nutrient., other things that can help like Omega-3s in the form of fish oil tend to help., those tend to have a in opposition a saturated fats which appear to be more sticky., you know, we don’t want those to stick to our arterial walls at all. We want a more of a, almost think of you know how fish is kind of slimy. I think the omega-3 has a similar property at a smaller level when we talk about inside our blood vessels, things tend to stick a little bit less. It’s also anti-inflammatory. Other things that could help, beetroot juice. But beads do have nitric oxide which is a vasodilator. Then when we talk about you know what influences blood pressure, part of it’s the size of the tube, the smaller the tube the higher the pressure. Because nitric oxide is a vasodilator, you know, it essentially makes the tube bigger relieving some of the pressure. So that can kind of help on that end.. There’s a few herbal things that have been studied. Hawthorne’s one, grape seed extract, those things tend to show a benefit to blood pressure, you know significantly but not always very dramatic. And that’s where you know maybe using some of these in combination, you know, you never want to supplement alone without giving an honest try I would diet and lifestyle. Those are by far going to be the biggest things, you know, managing your stress, getting enough sleep, being physically active. And that physical activity, you know, in a sense in the short term you’re training your blood pressure, you’re essentially teaching your body how to handle high blood pressure. So, other things that can be an issue like arterial stiffness, you don’t want your arteries to be too solid. So by exercising you’re getting blood flow and you’re teaching your arteries how to be elastic, which is you know, you know it’s nice.
Jim: And you know one of the nice things is that if you’re interested in learning more, you know, you can always go to the website, follow the link in some of our social media to our nutrition page. You can get a free consultation with John set up. In addition to that, we have I think six insurance companies that currently in some way shape or form are covering fees associated with that. I think if I have them right, it’s Highmark, it’s Capital Blue, it is Humana, it is Aetna, and I believe also United and Cigna as well. You know, so we have six different insurance companies that John is set it up where people are coming in now and getting these services which are categorized as preventive in terms of our health and getting everything covered. So we hope to see you in a future episode. Thanks for tuning in today and, food is medicine