It’s time to get serious.

24 Aug

I said I’d give this natural approach one year. I’m 8 months in right now and I do not have normal blood pressure. Yet.

It’s time to get serious about this problem. Even more serious than I’ve been so far. I’ve been kind of in limbo for the summer. Though there have been days when I get a reading like 146/93, most days I’m still hovering right around 150/100. And that’s not cool. I’ve got to get under 140/90 so I’m no longer classified as “hypertensive.”

So I’ve read a bazillion books, articles, reports, etc. on all the things that may lower blood pressure. And there are a lot, let me tell you. I’m doing or have done just about all of them. Except for 3 big ones.

And now I must get serious about them.

No. 1: Water, Water and More Water
So I have to say I’m kind of proud of myself right now. I actually did pretty well with the “water” drinking over the last 7 days! I drank 6 to 8 glasses each day. That’s an enormous improvement over my normal fluid consumption.

I have to attribute part of it to this totally sweet insulated cup my sister bought me for my birthday. It’s from Starbucks and holds 16 ounces. With the straw in there, the drinks seem to go down faster.

I should be honest and mention that not all of my drinks were plain water. Most of them contained lemon slices and a couple of times I had hot tea or iced tea (home brewed and sweetened with stevia). Still, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Like Doc Sutherland said: The solution to pollution is dilution.

No. 2: The Dreaded “E” Word
Exercise. It’s one of the things proven to lower blood pressure that I’m not doing whole-heartedly. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is what I’m told I should be doing. Last week, I got 4 days in, so I’m getting closer to that goal. But, I got up this morning completely determined to get on a schedule. I got straight out of bed, dressed, drank a glass of OJ, and headed out the door. I walked about 40 minutes and was back in the house in time to make my kids breakfast. Whew! Now I just need to keep at it. I want to be so accustomed to this schedule that when my kids go back to school, I’m already in a routine — drop them at school at 8 and then do my walk before getting busy with work for the day.

No. 3: Lose 15 lbs.
I thought ditching meat and all animal products would lead to effortless weight loss. It hasn’t. I weigh exactly the same as I did in January. I removed the meat and dairy and replaced it with healthy foods like beans, rice and pasta, but I must be consuming the same number of calories as I was before. I haven’t gained weight and I haven’t lost weight. So, it’s time to do something about it. Drinking more water and exercising are steering me in the right direction, but I’m going even further. No more evening snacks. None. Hot tea will have to hold me over until breakfast. By cutting out the evening snack, I should save about 200 calories. Hopefully, that will be enough to see some results.

There is a 4th “biggie” that I’m not doing yet to lower my BP — reducing my stress. I have actually said “no” recently to some requests for donating my time, but I’m secretly hoping that my stress level will automatically go down once my kids go back to school!  ;–)  We’ll see…

On a kind of unrelated note, it’s been a busy summer filled with family and friends, which hasn’t left me much time for creating new recipes. Over the weekend, I finally had some time to experiment with something I’ve been wanting to make.

A couple months ago, I was at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor and they had this fantastic chilled couscous salad with cranberries and pecans and a citrusy dressing. Oh, my gosh, it was SO good. I wanted to try to create a dish with similar combinations of flavor. I think I came pretty close. Serve this alongside any grilled meat or meat substitute — even burgers. It’s light and refreshing. I used whole wheat Israeli couscous, but Whole Foods used regular Israeli couscous in their version. Choose whichever you prefer, although I think the whole wheat is a little bit nuttier tasting. If you’re not familiar with couscous, it’s basically a small round ball of pasta. It comes in two sizes — one about the size of breadcrumbs and the other about the size of lentils, which is what I used in this recipe.

serves 6-8

9 ounce package plain Israeli couscous (about 1-3/4 cups uncooked)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Cook couscous per package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water until couscous is no longer hot. Place in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Drizzle over couscous. Stir in cranberries, pecans and green onions until the dressing is well distributed. Gently stir in parsley. Chill for at least 2 hours. The flavors are more developed (and even tastier) if chilled overnight. Serve and enjoy!

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6 Responses to “It’s time to get serious.”

  1. ShannonCC August 24, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    I haven't read all your posts (I only started following you after your EatingWell article 😉 so I don't know if you've mentioned this, but have you tried eating a low sodium diet? My husband has high blood pressure. He is taking medication but also using exercise and diet. He eats mostly vegetarian but most importantly, he eats a low sodium diet. This past weekend we went to a family party and he ate the food there and his blood pressure went up 20 points. We just stopped using salt and started looking for low or no sodium options for foods we didn't make ourselves. There is sodium in his bottled salad dressing and in the wraps he uses for his veggie sandwiches, but other than that (and natural sources like some veggies) we avoid it. We don't use it in cooking at all and not at the table either. It's true what they say that it takes weeks to get used to, but eventually you get the hang of it and your body gets used to it and then other people's food starts to taste salty, lol!

  2. Tamie Spears August 24, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Thanks for your note! I do watch my sodium, but not aggressively. I was using a salt substitute for a while but read that it can also cause problems. I do use some salt when cooking, but never at the table. I just started using Himalayan sea salt with 84 trace minerals. I've been told that's smarter option.

  3. Rachel Butler August 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Congratulations on all of the amazing work you've done for yourself!

  4. Rachel Butler August 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Apparently I don't know how to make a post! What I was trying to say was…
    It takes a courageous person to make yourself a priority, commit to improving your health, and share it with the world. Much kudos to you for doing all of these things!
    The cup you mentioned is really quite the hot commodity – my father-in-law recently asked us to bring him one from Seattle to California because they are totally sold out where he lives and he was also trying to increase water intake. They are pretty fun & fancy, I have to say.
    Some unsolicited information from one tea fan to another – some teas are known to increase blood pressure. Tea made with real licorice in particular has been known to have a significant effect. Some unconfirmed research indicates that black tea on an empty stomach might increase bp. Green tea research indicates it is a healthy choice for people struggling with bp, although if I had a cup of that before bed I'd probably end up cleaning the house at 2 am.
    Best of luck – and keep up the great work!
    Rachel Butler
    Life Coach & Nutritionist, Find Your Core

  5. Tamie Spears August 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Rachel – Thank you for your nice note! I did know that licorice increases BP and I avoid it. What I didn't know was the research on black tea on an empty stomach. I pretty much drink black or chai tea every morning when I first get up. It's decaf, but I may have to drink something else for a week or so and see what happens.

  6. ShannonCC August 25, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Tamie, it's definitely worth trying. If I remember right, his blood pressure went down within a week (? I think? It's been awhile) of us cutting salt. My husband *is* on medication and one of them contains potassium (so he isn't supposed to eat the potassium based fake salt) but still, cutting the salt was what made the difference for him. Not everyone with high blood pressure is salt sensitive of course, but the only sure fire way to tell is to cut it out and see what happens. I recently found some salad dressings that have only 60 and 45 mg (two varieties) per serving! We also have to watch carbs since he also has diabetes and sometimes it feels like I have to choose between salt and sugar. But these are both good for both of our issues. I make dressings at home for me that are without salt but he takes bottles to work for lunch so it's just easier to buy. And bread – don't get me started. Everyone says it's so easy but I finally gave up and just buy it, lol! His wrap is his biggest intake of sodium right now at 150 mg per wrap, but he only eats one a day so it's not a big deal. We used to use sea salt and himalayan salt and other fancy salts but it apparently didn't matter. I do prefer them when I eat salt, but that's not often nowadays. I'm not salt sensitive and have good blood pressure but it's easier for me to eat the way he does for the most part. That, and because I'd feel mean sitting in front of him putting salt on my dinner when he can't have any. Anyway, I don't mean to be pushy, lol! Just offering a suggestion of something that really worked for us.

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