Eating Healthy to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Date: February 3, 2014
One in three Americans is diagnosed with high blood pressure. It is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart and kidney failure, stroke and other health problems. There are usually no signs or symptoms associated with high blood pressure, which is why it is so important to “know your numbers” and have your blood pressure checked regularly (see box below).
Fortunately, high blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication. One of the easiest ways to maintain normal blood pressure is to eat a healthy diet. Dietitian Cynthia Finley, RD, recommends a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins. “You also should decrease or eliminate foods that are high in sodium, fat and sugar, which are known to increase blood pressure,” she says.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible and balanced eating plan that studies have shown helps lower blood pressure. It is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat, focusing instead on fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. The DASH diet contains fewer sweets, sugars and sugary beverages, sodium and red meats than the typical American diet.
“Different diets work for different people and should be customized to ensure compliance,” says Finley. “If you want to lower your blood pressure by changing your diet, you should schedule an appointment with a dietitian. He or she will be able to customize a plan that best suits your needs and will meet your individual goals.”
Know Your Numbers
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps. It is measured as systolic (blood pressure when the heart beats) and diastolic (blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats).You most often will see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number before the diastolic number, such as 120/80.
Below is a table that illustrates normal blood pressure numbers and ranges that put you at greater risk for health problems. What are your numbers?
|Category||Systolic (top number)||Diastolic (bottom number)|
|Normal||Less than 120||Less than 80|
|High blood pressure, Stage 1||140-159||90-99|
|High blood pressure, Stage 2||160 or higher||100 or higher|
Controlling Your Blood Pressure
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Be moderately physically active on most days.
- Follow a healthy eating plan, which includes foods lower in sodium.
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
- If you are prescribed medication for high blood pressure, always take it as directed.