HTN (high blood pressure) affects 29% of US Adults, which is 1 in 3 people. Having high blood pressure greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease or strokes. High BP is genetic, but there are several dietary changes that can lower it.
- Fruits & veggies. September is fruits & veggies- more matters month. People with HTN should aim for 4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of veggies/day. Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli are good sources of potassium as are dark orange fruits and vegetables like citrus (oranges/grapefruit), peaches, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and squash. Kiwi, bananas and tomatoes are also high in potassium.
- High calcium foods, like dairy products. Dairy is not just for strong bones and teeth. Studies show that people who have higher calcium intakes, have lower blood pressure. Choose low sodium string cheese, low fat yogurt, skim or 1% milk. Two servings/day are advised. 5% or less sodium is advised on cheese (read labels)
- Nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods are high in magnesium, potassium and fiber, all of which are heart-healthy. Aim for 4-5 servings/week (small handful, ¼ cup is a serving for nuts, ½ cup for beans or peas).
- Whole grains. Whole grains like steel cut oats, bulgur, 100% whole wheat bread are high in magnesium and fiber, which have been shown to lower blood pressure. Aim for at least 3 servings/day.
- High sodium foods. Sorry bacon and hot dogs. Your high sodium, high fat content does not make the cut here. Sodium raises blood pressure. Even “healthy” lunch meat (like turkey breast) can be high in sodium.
- Excessive alcohol intake raises blood pressure. Moderation is 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men. Too much can cause weight gain, fatty liver and increased risk for several cancers.
- Excess caffeine. Caffeine raises blood pressure temporarily, so don’t drink in excess. Both light and dark roasts contain about the same amount of caffeine. Arabica coffee, which is more expensive, will contain LESS caffeine. One cup/day provides 250-600 mg caffeine.
- High calorie/junk food: Excess calories lead to weight gain, which affects blood pressure. An analysis of controlled studies showed that an 11 lb. weight loss would lower blood pressure by 4.44 mm systolic and 3.57 mm diastolic. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle (systolic pressure). The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. (diastolic pressure).