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African Americans and High Blood Pressure- Food and Holistic Healing

I remember growing up in a very large family. I had five brothers, and my cousins had seven sisters, and so on…Tons of cousins, spending summer days at my nanny’s house, staying outside until dark. I remember seeing all my uncles and aunts sitting around laughing, joking, and smoking outside in the yard. My grandmother sat there with a peaceful smile and quiet contentment on her face, while the rest of my 12+ uncles and aunts roared heartily into the night.

And now, they are all gone. (Except the youngest, my dad, now 84 years).

What I also remember is that practically all my paternal aunts and uncles died from some form of cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack, enlarged heart…).

According to the CDC (2020), African Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure than any other ethnic group.

This is alarming, while at the same time, not utterly surprising, seeing that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is not solely attributed to genetic make up, but also related to diet and lifestyle (, 2020).

What is hypertension or high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is simply the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels as your heart pumps (American Heart Association, 2016). It is measured in units of millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. We all know the familiar, “BOOM-boom, BOOM-boom, BOOM-boom” sound that our heart makes. The measurement is given in pairs with the first being the force of blood as the heart pumps into the arteries and throughout the body (systolic pressure). The second (bottom) number represents the pressure of blood flow while the heart rests before the next beat (diastolic pressure). High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when this pressure remains too high.

What are considered borderline and high blood pressure ranges?

Pizzorno, Murray, and Joiner-Bey (2016) say that borderline hypertension is 120/90-94, while 140-159/90-99 is considered high.

So what can be done?

I wish I could jump into a time machine, program it for the 70’s and 80’s, and go back to warn my aunts and uncles to throw away the margarine and go back to butter! I wish I could tell them: stop cooking in bacon grease!

But I can’t.I can, however, let my voice be heard in the present. And in this era of health and wellness, I believe more are open and seeking ways to improve their health.

And the good news is, there are some natural ways to help lower high blood pressure!

Here are just a few tips from the nutritional perspective (Coetzee, 2019):

  • Best advice : MOVE! Engage in physical activity.

  • Nitric oxide (NO) is soooooo important to health! Found abundantly in kale greens.

  • Pomegranate juice is perfect for lowering blood pressure (BP) and for reversing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

  • Black sesame seed is a SUPERFOOD that is incredibly good at lowering BP.

  • Lemon essential oil (EO) lowers BP.

  • The DASH diet has proven to effectively lower BP from electrolytes (K+, Ca+, Mg+) in foods, not from supplements.

  • Natural blood thinners: garlic, onion, ginger, fish oil (if already on blood thinners, check with your physician to assess for possible contraindications).

  • Onions are anti-hypertensive. A research study showed onion extract to lower BP by 25mmHg. Impressive!

  • Garlic (I love garlic!), Allium sativum. A study compared garlic to Atenolol and showed it as effective in treating high BP.

  • For the hypertensive patient: hydration is key! DRINK WATER!!!!!!

(I could actually do a separate, more in depth talk on many of these bullet points!)

Let’s use food as medicine and work to keep our blood pressures in a healthy range!

Here’s to your health!

*And as always, I cannot treat, advise, or diagnose. This information is for EDUCATION PURPOSES ONLY.

**See your doctor before starting ANY supplements!


American Heart Association [AHA]. (2016, October 31).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2020).

Coetzee, O. (personal communication, April, 2019) (2020, April 30). Retrieved from

Pizzorno, J. E., Murray, M. T., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine (3rd ed). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.


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