Hypertension is defined as a health condition where the pressure exerted by your blood on the walls of your arteries and vessels is chronically high. This can lead to cardiac issues, kidney issues, and brain stroke, among other health risks.
Hypertension does not usually cause symptoms at low to moderate levels. At higher levels, it can cause headaches, dizziness, flushing, nosebleeds, tremors, and irregular heartbeat, among other symptoms.
Hypertension is a highly prevalent condition:
- An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries.
- An estimated 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.
- Less than half of adults (42%) with hypertension are diagnosed and treated.
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults (21%) with hypertension have it under control.
The underlying root cause of hypertension varies from case to case. The most common cause, though, is metabolic dysfunction caused by insulin resistance. In other cases, there is an issue with the kidneys, which causes the natural salt-pressure balance maintenance to be disturbed. There are other causes too.
Our practice at iThrive is based on functional nutrition principles, which involve advanced testing to uncover the root cause of every client’s chronic disease in order to reverse it permanently. However, a reversal takes time, and not everyone can afford a holistic health practitioner every time. Moreover, for some people, the condition may not be serious enough to warrant expensive treatment. In this article, we are going to share the most effective self-help methods to manage and potentially even reverse your hypertension if it is mild enough.
These are all non-drug treatments based on diet and lifestyle therapy. We don’t recommend using pharma drugs owing to their side effects, especially with long-term usage.
- Improve metabolic health
As we mentioned, metabolic dysfunction through insulin resistance is the most common cause and driver of hypertension. Considering this, diet and exercise are vital tools to manage the condition. Hypertension is a lifestyle disease and thus responds very well to diet and lifestyle therapy. Losing excess body fat and improving your metabolic health is key to managing hypertension. You can track metabolic health through metabolic markers like serum insulin and serum glucose(fasting and post-prandial), HbA1C and triglycerides.
- Dietary Changes
Food is medicine and is the most effective tool to combat most diseases. When trying to improve metabolic health, it is definitely the most important factor. Try to focus on the following:
-eliminate processed foods and eat more whole foods
-cut down on refined carbohydrates and sugar
-eliminate refined seed oils like sunflower, grapeseed, and groundnut and use ghee, butter, coconut oil and animal fats instead
-cut down on inflammatory foods like gluten, soy and corn
- Low carb and periodic fasting
Cutting back on carbohydrates and introducing periodic fasting are powerful tools to modulate your insulin levels and recover your metabolic health. You can even try a ketogenic diet for a temporary period for more effective results. However, you need to be careful with low-carb and fasting practices as too much of them for prolonged periods can cause starvation and create stress and adversely impact your health.
- Reduce your caloric intake
We don’t recommend a CICO(calories-in-calories-out) approach to nutrition, but when looking at the epidemic of metabolic disease we have today, overeating is a definite problem. It’s been referred to as “energy toxicity”. You don’t need to count calories, but being mindful of your food intake is important.
Exercise is the next most important tool here. Any kind of movement and exercise you can get is helpful. There are studies looking at the direct impact of specific exercise practices such as aerobics and Tai Chi on hypertension that show they are more effective than hypertension drugs.
It’s important not to overexert yourself if you have hypertension though. Try to increase your exercise load slowly, day by day.
- Consider your sodium intake
We say “consider” and not limit. The conventional guideline for hypertension is to universally limit sodium intake strictly. But actually, it is only a section of hypertension patients who are “salt-sensitive” and experience hypertension triggered by increasing sodium intake.
What we recommend is to increase and decrease your sodium intake and track your blood pressure simultaneously to see if a higher salt intake is triggering hypertension for you. If it is, you do need to watch your sodium intake until the salt sensitivity issue is resolved.
- Track your blood pressure
Continuing from the previous point, testing and tracking are critical to uncovering important information on your health. Functional nutrition uses extensive testing at every stage of treatment.
Thankfully, testing for blood pressure is super inexpensive and easy and can be done at home using a simple blood pressure monitor. If you suffer from hypertension, we recommend testing your blood pressure at different times of the day and after each meal, so you can get an idea of which foods and activities, if any, might be spiking your blood pressure.
- Increase your potassium and magnesium intake
Both of these minerals, especially potassium work strongly to reduce hypertension. You can get potassium from potassium-rich foods like bananas, coconut water, seafood and dry fruits. Potassium can be toxic at high doses though, so be careful if supplementing.
Magnesium is a universally critical mineral for health in general and it’s something almost everyone is deficient in today. Hence we recommend magnesium supplementation with 200-400 mg for everyone without requiring any prior testing.
- DON’T blindly follow the DASH diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a set of dietary guidelines formulated by the US National Institute of Health.
While having some obvious useful recommendations such as eating more whole foods in general, DASH still suffers from most of the dietary dogma prevalent in public health institutions. These include:
- Eating a low- fat diet and replacing natural saturated fats with processed seed oils and vegetable oils
- Low-fat dairy
- Very High fiber intake
- Cutting back on red meat
- Very low-sodium intake
We don’t recommend any of the above. Eating a high-fiber diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables may be beneficial for some individuals who can tolerate it, but most people with any kind of gut issue would have the same be aggravated by a high fiber intake. So we must exercise caution.
The sodium limit set by the DASH diet is a ridiculous 2.3g. This is the USDA limit as well.
A sodium intake of 4 to 6 grams is most optimal based on the current literature.
Getting adequate sleep is critical for all health conditions. Sleep is how the body heals, detoxes and repairs itself. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your hormones and neurotransmitters, and drives stress. Excess stress is a huge trigger for hypertension.
- Reduce stress
This is difficult to do in our modern fast-paced lifestyles. But it is critically important. Excess stress and chronically high levels of cortisol(stress hormone) are one of the biggest drivers of modern disease. If you have hypertension, you need to make it a priority to take time off for yourself to relax and unwind and indulge in activities that help you do the same.
Spending more time in the parasympathetic state(the relaxed state of the body where the nervous system is not triggered) is crucial for healing.
- Yoga, meditation and breathwork
These practices help you relax very effectively. Massages are helpful too.
- Reduce artificial white light
Make sure to avoid artificial white lights from bulbs and screens post sunset as far as possible, and avoid it completely at least two hours before bed. This helps you relax and promotes melatonin production ensuring better sleep.
- Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol intake aggravates hypertension. Try to cut back as far as possible.
- Cut back on caffeine
The same goes for caffeine as well. Some people may be more sensitive to the blood pressure-spiking effects of caffeine than others. You can always track your blood pressure after consumption to find out.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking also aggravates hypertension. So much so that studies have demonstrated that being around secondhand smoke also increases hypertension.
Detoxing helps improve several health markers and is effective in reducing hypertension as well. “Detox” has become a big buzzword in the wellness space today though, with the market flooded with all kinds of random “detox” products, most of which are seldom any help.
For a comprehensive understanding of how to detox using evidence-backed protocols, refer to our article on detox. 
You can consider taking the following supplements to manage your hypertension more effectively. These supplements have been shown to be particularly effective in lowering hypertension.
- Omega 3
- Vitamin K2
We sincerely hope these tips help you manage or even reverse your hypertension. Not all cases can be managed personally, though obviously. Feel free to book a consultation call with us in case you think you need help from a practitioner.