This is a topic near and dear to my heart because my husband suffers from White Coat Hypertension. Ever heard of it? It’s the phenomenon that occurs when having your blood pressure taken during a doctor visit. Just being at the appointment can cause anxiety and thus blood pressure to rise. Anyway, Jeff is very disciplined about diet and exercise, other than the occasional Bubba Burger! In fact, most mornings he can be found running 5-7 miles in and around Poipu! As a result of his mostly-good habits, he has rarely needed to go to the doctor. But on the few occasions when a trip to the doctor or hospital is required such as a check-up or stitches from an errant elbow during a basketball game, he is a wreck. He even hates visiting friends or family at the hospital. So funny for a fearless guy!! Well, funny to me but not funny to him. So when he has his blood pressure taken, it’s higher than 120/80, he flips out because his BP is high, and then it goes higher!! This is obviously not an uncommon problem or it wouldn’t have a name. It might also be genetic as our oldest daughter also suffers from White Coat Hypertension.
How does White Coat Hypertension differ from clinical Hypertension? Clinical Hypertension is where your blood pressure exceeds 120/80 in a non-agitated state. The upper number, which is always the larger number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts as in a heartbeat, and the lower number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest, between beats. The upper number is called systolic pressure and the lower is the diastolic.
Which brings me to how you can lower it naturally. According to the Institute of Medicine, most American women consume less than half the recommended amount of potassium, men just a bit more than women. Potassium can lower systolic blood pressure by anywhere from 3-7 points as well as blunt the effects of salt, reduce the risks of kidney stones, and decrease bone loss.
Adults should consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium/day to achieve the above effects and some potassium rich foods include:
- Potatoes (include the skin)
- Sweet potatoes
- Oranges and grapefruit
- Cantaloupe and honeydew
I want to focus on bananas because we carry the best bananas grown on island from Kapaa Banana Company! They are smaller, sometimes half the size, of the bananas seen on the mainland and they’re called apple bananas because they have a faint green apple flavor. They are the perfect size for a snack or a kid’s lunch with no leftover banana to turn brown and mushy. I like to take the really ripe ones, peel them, cut them up into 1 inch segments, and then put each cut up banana in it’s own ziplock bag in the freezer. All ready for smoothies and then I don’t have to add ice, which waters down the taste, to make it thick.
Fun facts about bananas:
- Mai’a is the Hawaiian word for banana
- Early Polynesians introduced bananas and they were taboo for women.
- It was considered bad luck to dream of bananas, to meet a man carrying bananas, or to take them in fishing canoes.
- Bananas don’t grow on trees, they grow on giant perennial herbs.
- A bunch of bananas is called a “hand.”
- They are available year round on Kauai.
Lastly, if you want to learn more about how potassium can lower your blood pressure, help prevent bone loss, and why it’s better to get potassium from foods instead of supplements, here’s a great article that’s easy to understand and is found in one of my frequently read science nerd publications.