The Power of Blueberries on Blood Pressure

Eating blueberries has been recently shown to have a tremendous effect on lowering high blood pressure. This is great news for those seeking lifestyle pathways to help reduce their blood pressure. The power of fruits and vegetables continues to be front and center in helping control lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. According to Harvard Health, the more fruits and vegetables you consume, the lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, those who on average eat 8 or more servings per day are 30 % less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

You are not alone:

About 75 million US adults have high blood pressure. That means about 1 in 3 people. Of those 75 million, only about half of them have their blood pressure under control. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the 2 of the leading causes of death in the US.

High blood pressure is often called a ‘silent killer’ because it often has little to no warning signs or symptoms and many people are unaware that they even have high blood pressure until it is diagnosed by a health professional.

Make no mistake, just because you don’t ‘feel’ bad; if you’re blood pressure readings are continually high, there is a lot of damage going on that you may not be aware of and your risk of stroke or heart attack is increasing the longer that you let it go without taking the appropriate medical steps and lifestyle steps to correct it.

What exactly is Blood Pressure? Blood pressure is the force or strength of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries in your body. Blood pressure can fluctuate during the day, it rises with exercise or exertion, stress, not sleeping well, dehydration or as a reaction to some kind of change, but if your blood pressure remains consistently higher than normal make sure that you are working with your doctor to incorporate all the appropriate lifestyle and medical interventions possible to control it and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

What do those numbers from the reading actually mean? The top number is called systolic blood pressure, which is a measure of the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The bottom number is called diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests in between beats.

New Normal:

Normal blood pressure means a reading of LESS than a systolic reading of 120 systolic over a diastolic reading of 80.

Some people are surprised that the numbers have been changed. Last year, new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology as well as nine other health organizations lowered the numbers for the diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and higher for all adults.

What this means is that now, 70% to 79% of men ages 55 and older are classified as having hypertension.

Blueberry’s Power Punch:

That being said, let’s get back to the power of the mighty little blueberry. A just released (Feb 2019) study looked at the phytochemicals that give blueberries their deep rich blue color and found that particular phytochemicals called “anthocyanins” are responsible for a phenomenal effect on blood pressure and the cardiovascular system.

Scientists discovered that eating about 1 cup of blueberries had a very positive effect on blood flow in the arteries within just 2 hours of eating them due to the power of anthocyanins which give blueberries their deep blue color. The anthocyanins in the blueberries affected the part of the blood vessel that helps control the dilation and contraction of the arteries and help to keep blood pressure in check.

The scientists found that “After a month of having 200 g of blueberries (about 1 cup) each day, the participants’ blood pressure decreased by 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), on average. The researchers note that such a decrease is usually obtained with medication.”

That is pretty powerful news for those struggling to integrate lifestyle changes to help stabilize their blood pressure!

Blueberries are versatile and readily available 12 months out of the year – either fresh and/or frozen. Eating one cup a day can be an easy to achieve goal – just add one cup of frozen blueberries to a smoothie as a quick grab and go meal. Smoothies need no special recipe- simply blend your fresh or frozen blueberries with 8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk. You can also add some healthy fats in the form of raw almond butter or no-sugar peanut butter if you’d like, a banana, some baby spinach, your favorite protein powder and keep cold and ready for a healthy snack or quick breakfast on the go. You can eat blueberries fresh, frozen, in low-fat yogurt, salads or just as a snack. The list is endless in ways that you can easily add a cup into your daily routine.

The wonderful news for those who are struggling to control their high blood pressure or feel powerless over what is going on with their blood pressure is that we have much more control then we think. Making lifestyle changes like adding a cup of blueberries to our diets, as well as adding more fruits and vegetable servings to our daily food intake can have an enormous impact on our blood pressure readings and our cardiovascular health.

Other positive lifestyle changes include drinking enough water (1/2 your body weight in fluid ounces) watching sodium intake – both the shaker and in processed foods so as not to go above 1500mg per day. Read labels and use your Rolling Strong App to assess what is in your food! (Did you know that even a small Wendy’s Chili, while low in fat and carbs has a whopping 780 mg of sodium?) Eating 10 -13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is attainable- cut up veggies and bring them with you on the road, ask for lettuce, tomato and onion on everything, add diced frozen peppers to your eggs, a handful of spinach in your smoothie or protein shake and use lettuce wraps instead of bread to wrap lean protein.

You have all the power you need within your choices to make positive lifestyle changes to help regulate your blood pressure. Since blood pressure is a ‘Silent Killer’ make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly – either by your Rolling Strong Health Coach or at a HIGI station (check the Rolling Strong App for a HIGI station near you- just look under the Health area and search Find Health Check Services. You can integrate the HIGI stations into the App so that you always have your numbers on hand when speaking with your doctor or health professional. Talk to your Rolling Strong Coach about different lifestyle changes that can help you control your blood pressure.

Cindy Luisi WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach