What are the diet tips for managing high blood pressure (Hypertension)?
High blood pressure, refers to the pressure of blood against your artery walls. Over time, high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage that leads to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and other problems. Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it produces no symptoms and can go unnoticed — and untreated — for years.
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), it’s best to eat meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
This is, of course, good dietary advice for everyone, regardless of blood pressure. For people with high blood pressure, the main thing to watch out for is salt. Too much salt or sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
An important part of a high blood pressure treatment plan is to stick to a healthy diet, including limiting sodium intake.
Foods that help lower blood pressure
- Leafy greens
Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you. Potassium helps your kidneys get rid of more sodium through your urine. This in turn lowers your blood pressure.
Leafy greens, which are high in potassium, include:
- romaine lettuce
- turnip greens
- collard greens
- beet greens
- Swiss chard
Canned vegetables often have added sodium. But frozen vegetables contain as many nutrients as fresh vegetables, and they’re easier to store. You can also blend these veggies with bananas and nut milk for a healthy, sweet green juice.
Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids. Consuming these compounds might prevent hypertension and help lower blood pressure.
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are easy to add to your diet. You can put them on your cereal or granola in the morning, or keep frozen berries on hand for a quick and healthy dessert.
- Red beets
Beets are high in nitric oxide, which can help open your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that the nitrates in beetroot juice lowered research participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours.
You can juice your own beets or simply cook and eat the whole root. Beetroot is delicious when roasted or added to stir-fries and stews. You can also bake them into chips. Be careful when handling beets — the juice can stain your hands and clothes.
- Skim milk and yogurt
Skim milk is an excellent source of calcium and is low in fat. These are both important elements of a diet for lowering blood pressure. You can also opt for yogurt if you don’t like milk.
Try incorporating granola, almond slivers, and fruits into your yogurt for extra heart-healthy benefits. When buying yogurt, be sure to check for added sugar. The lower the sugar quantity per serving, the better.
Oatmeal fits the bill for a high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sodium way to lower your blood pressure. Eating oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to fuel up for the day.
Overnight oats are a popular breakfast option. To make them, soak 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 1/2 cup of nut milk in a jar. In the morning, stir and add berries, granola, and cinnamon to taste.
Eating foods that are rich in potassium is better than taking supplements. Slice a banana into your cereal or oatmeal for a potassium-rich addition. You can also take one to go along with a boiled egg for a quick breakfast or snack.
- Salmon, mackerel, and fish with omega-3s
Fish are a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.
One benefit of preparing fish is that it’s easy to flavor and cook. To try it, place a fillet of salmon in parchment paper and season with herbs, lemon, and olive oil. Bake the fish in a preheated oven at 450°F for 12-15 minutes.
- Garlic and herbs
Garlic can help reduce hypertension by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps promote vasodilation, or the widening of arteries, to reduce blood pressure.
Incorporating flavorful herbs and spices into your daily diet can also help you cut back on your salt intake. Examples of herbs and spices you can add include basil, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and more.
Pistachios are a healthy way to decrease blood pressure by reducing peripheral vascular resistance, or blood vessel tightening, and heart rate. A diet with one serving of pistachios a day helps reduce blood pressure.
You can incorporate pistachios into your diet by adding them to crusts, pesto sauces, and salads, or by eating them plain as a snack.
- Olive oil
Olive oil is an example of a healty fat. It contains polyphenols which are inflammation-fighting compounds that can help reduce blood pressure.
Olive oil can help you meet your two to three daily servings of fat. It’s a great alternative to canola oil, butter, or commercial salad dressing.
Pomegranates are a healthy fruit that you can enjoy raw or as a juice. Drinking a cup of pomegranate juice helps lower blood pressure over the short term.
Pomegranate juice is tasty with a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check the sugar content in store-bought juices, as the added sugars can negate the health benefits.
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet;
i) Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
- Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
- Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
ii) Limit the amount of alcohol you consume
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
iii) Quit smoking
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
iv) Cut back on caffeine
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.