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6 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure For The DOT Physical

by Patrick Netzel

How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure Before The DOT Physical?

  1. Eat fruits & vegetables, drink beet juice
  2. Get Plenty Of Sleep
  3. Cut out coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol
  4. Drink plenty of water
  5. Take a deep breath, meditate
  6. Eat a banana

So you've got your DOT physical coming up, and you're concerned about your blood pressure. In many cases, blood pressure can be lowered through a combination of diet and exercise, and in the short term, there are several ways you can get it under control before your physical.

Keep in mind that many, many, people take medication to control their hypertension , and controlling your blood pressure "with or without medication" will be acceptable for the purposes of the DOT physical. If you're worries about your blood pressure, or if you already know it's high, don't try to use short-term fixes as a way to try and "game" the system. Not only will it not work, left untreated, hypertension can lead to a whole host of other health issues, like heart attacks, strokes, vision loss, and heart failure.

1. Eat Fruits, Vegetables, & Beet Juice To Lower Your Blood Pressure

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In technical terms, beets are high in nitrate, which, as your body turns it into nitric oxide, can help you lower your blood pressure by:

Relaxing the smooth muscles in your blood vessels. This helps to keep your arteries properly dilated.

Nitric oxide is an anti-platelet, that helps guard against blood clotting or thickening.

Both of these things help lower blood pressure by helping the blood to flow easier through your body.

A study conducted at Queen Mary University in London, England found that drinking a cup of beet juice daily had significant impact on blood pressure, and brought it back to normal range for most patients:

During the study, patients in the intervention group also experienced an improvement of around 20 per cent in blood vessel dilation capacity and around a 10% reduction in arterial stiffness. These changes in blood vessel function have been shown, by other studies, to be associated with substantial reductions in heart disease. There were no adverse side effects from the daily dietary nitrate.

Source: Daily beetroot juice lowers blood pressure, scientists find

You can buy beet juice in pretty much any supermarkety place, by now. Alternatively, there are several variations available, such as powder form and high-concentrate mix. If you're not really in to beet juice, there are many other alternatives high in nitrates:

  • Strawberries
  • Currents
  • Gooseberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Cabbage
  • Radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Collard Greens
  • Arugula
  • Rhubarb

The level of nitrates in these foods will vary greatly depending on the quality of the soil they were grown in.

Also note that "beet juice" is not to be confused with Beetlejuice, the 1988 comedy/horror/romance film featuring the one-and-only Michael Keaton in one of his finest on-screen performances.

2. Lower Blood Pressure By Getting Good Sleep

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Many people who get less than 5 hours of sleep per night may be at increased risk for developing high blood pressure. Sleep is a factor in regulating stress hormones, and keeping your nervous system healthy. Chronic lack of sleep could lead to high blood pressure, as over time your body may not be able to properly regulate stress hormones.

People with sleep apnea may be more susceptible to high blood pressure, as, if left untreated, it can cause very broken or fractured sleep patterns.

Source: Is it true that sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure?

A study done in 2013, Epidemiological Evidence for the Link Between Sleep Duration and High Blood Pressure, reviewing the results of 21 previous studies involving 225,000 subjects, found that "short-sleepers", or those getting less than six hours per night, were 20% more likely to develop hypertension.

Source: Sleep and High Blood Pressure

In a recent insomnia conversation in our forum, Pianoman shared his secrets for getting decent sleep on the road:

Put the phone away. Don't talk on the phone, browse, watch movies, etc. I guess you can listen to music if that really helps you, but once you set the music up, don't mess with your phone the rest of the night (or whatever time of day you're sleeping). That little bright screen is a lot bigger culprit than you might think in robbing you of your precious sleep, even if you're only looking at it for a few minutes. I think it's more than the screen though--anytime you talk or do anything else on your phone, you're engaging your brain when you should be settling down to sleep.

Set a timer. I used to set mine for eight hours, but I tend to require a little more sleep than some other people (compliments of diabetes). If six or seven hours is enough for you, cool. During that time, don't get up for anything other than bathroom breaks.

Don't move. This one is kinda weird, but it works. Until that timer goes off, force yourself to just lie there, eyes closed, motionless. Seriously, don't even toss and turn. This usually actually helped me fall asleep, even though it was uncomfortable at first. Even if you don't fall asleep, you should feel more rested when you actually get up since you weren't expending much energy while you were down.

Keep it dark and cool. This one is pretty easy since trucks have good blackout curtains and you can use the A/C if you need it. I'm actually kinda jealous right now because I've been having trouble getting it dark and cool in my apartment during the day when I've been trying to sleep. The only time I had a hard time keeping it cool in my truck is when my A/C wasn't working.

Sleeping is kinda like driving--when it's time to sleep, you shouldn't be doing anything else.

3. Smoking, Drinking, & Even Coffee Will Raise Your Blood Pressure

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Nicotine has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rate, harden and narrow your arteries, and raise the likelihood of blood clotting. It is generally stressful on the heart, as well. Aside from the dozens of detrimental effects to your body, smoking is a direct cause of temporary increases in blood pressure. Any form of tobacco should really be avoided.

Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health

The same goes for alcohol. Having more than three drinks in one sitting will temporarily raise your blood pressure, and long-term drinkers may have more chronic issues with hypertension. Avoid consuming alcohol in the days before your physical. Heavy drinkers should avoid stopping all at once, as it can cause even higher blood pressure. Heavy drinkers should probably also examine whether they are actually fit to be a truck driver, as well.

Does drinking alcohol affect your blood pressure?

Around 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day, with 68% of those consuming it within the first hour of waking up. Technically a psychoactive drug, it gives a kick to certain hormone producers in the brain that give you that energy boost, but it also temporarily, and almost immediately, raises blood pressure.

The effect of caffeine on blood pressure will be even more dramatic in those with already-high blood pressure, so avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine in the hours before your physical.

4. Stay Hydrated, Drink Plenty Of Water

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Blood pressure aside, drinking plenty of water is central to maintaining a healthy body and mind, and is directly related to the proper function of many of the bodies processes. Simply put, if you do take in enough water, the body will retain more sodium, higher levels of which have been shown to increase blood pressure, as well as risk of heart attack and stroke for people with already-high blood pressure.

Inadequate water consumption can lead to dehydration, which can actually cause both low and high blood pressure. Increased sodium retention will lead to a gradual closing of the capillary beds, increasing pressure places on the arteries and increasing blood pressure.

A capillary bed is a concentration of capillaries which supply blood to a specific organ or area of the body. The density of the capillaries in a given bed can vary, depending on the requirements of the area it supports. These areas are an important part of the circulatory system, marking the point where the circulation reaches its terminus and loops back around to allow blood to pass through the heart and become re-oxygenated so that it can return to circulation.

Source: What is a Capillary Bed?

People with normal blood pressure shouldn't avoid salt intake, either, as not getting enough salt can actually cause these same issues. The ever-fluctuating science of nutrition recently indicated that salt wasn't necessarily the evil that it had been previously portrayed to be, but that people without other blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues can safely consume sodium in moderation, and that extremely low salt intake is also unhealthy.

Risks of high salt intake only found in people with hypertension

5. Relax, Take A Deep Breath, Meditate To Lower Your Blood Pressure

The relaxation response, a term he coined in the 1970's, is a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response. The relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure. For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress, says Dr. Benson.

~ Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep

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Many studies have shown not only a link between stress-relieving meditation, yoga, or other relaxation exercise and lower blood pressure, but also other stress-related conditions such as insomnia, depression, and chronic pain.

The idea behind relaxation techniques is to take the mind's attention off of the immediacy of the moment, and direct it towards something soothing or calming, increasing your awareness of the body. It's also something that can be learned on your own, and practiced nearly anywhere.

Again, there are many positive long-term effects, as well, of staying relaxed and stress-free, as much as possible considering the day-to-day life of the typical truck driver. Beyond helping to control blood pressure, relaxation techniques can:

  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Improve digestion
  • Help maintain normal blood sugar levels
  • Lower fatigue
  • Reduce frustration or anger
  • Slow your heart rate
  • Reduce muscle tension and chronic back pain
  • Increase blood flow to major muscles

Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress

Many people, for their own reasons, or for no reason, experience elevated blood pressure levels only before or during a doctor's visit or other appointment in a clinical setting. This phenomena has been labeled "white coat hypertension", or "white coat syndrome", and can be at least partially explained by patients anxiety or stress.

However, a 2015 study on white coat hypertension found that even though it is generally considered a temporary issue, the mortality rates of people assessed as white coat hypertensive were much higher than those with normal readings. It also found, though, that those at high risk generally brought with them a variety of other health conditions that most likely contributed to their deaths:

Compared with individuals in whom WCH was unstable, stable WCH was characterized by an older age, a greater body mass index , an increased left ventricular mass, and higher serum cholesterol and glucose values. Thus, factors other than the persistently elevated office BP may be abnormal in stable WCH, its increased cardiovascular risk being thus generated not only by an office BP elevation but also by risk factors other than BP.

Adverse Prognostic Value of Persistent Office Blood Pressure Elevation in White Coat Hypertension

6. Eat Foods Rich In Potassium

Potassium helps to offset the effects of increased sodium intake, allowing the kidneys to flush more sodium and excess fluid out of the body in the form of urine. Increased fluid levels because of high sodium levels have been linked to hypertension.

While bananas are usually the first food mentioned as good sources of potassium, likely because most stores stock them and they require zero preparation, there are plenty of others that are more potent sources. This includes beets, and as you're already drinking beet juice from our tip above, it's two birds with one stone.

Too much potassium can be dangerous, however, as high levels have been associated with cardiovascular events like heart attacks and stroke. Avoid potassium supplements, as most people can get a sufficient amount through eating fruits and vegetables. People with normal kidney function would find it nearly impossible to overdose on bananas.

Foods That Are Good Sources Of Potassium (Besides Bananas):

A typical banana provides around 9% of your daily potassium intake, about 422 mg. Here is a list of thirteen foods that contain more, but require various levels of preparation, along with their percentage of Daily Recommended Intake:

  • Sweet Potato: Medium baked, 542 mg, 12%.
  • White Potato: Medium baked, 941 mg, 20%.
  • Tomato Sauce: One cup, 728 mg, 15%.
  • Watermelon: Two wedges, 641 mg, 14%.
  • Frozen Spinach: one cup, 540 mg, 11%.
  • Beets: One cup, 518 mg, 11%.
  • Black Beans: One cup, 739 mg, 16%.
  • White Beans: One cup 1189 mg, 25%.
  • Canned Salmon: 5 oz., 487 mg, 10%.
  • Edamame: Soybeans in the pod, 1 cup, 676 mg, 14%.
  • Butternut Squash:One cup, 582 mg, 12%.
  • Swiss Chard: One cup cooked, 961 mg, 20%.
  • Yogurt: Regular plain yogurt, 573 mg, 12%.

Source: 13 Foods That Have More Potassium Than A Banana

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Hypertension:

Abnormally high blood pressure.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

Body Mass Index:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

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