What Foods Can Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading health problem across most modern societies. Approximately a third of adults in the U.S. have significantly high blood pressure which threatens their well-being, while a further third have blood pressure readings lying above the ideal range.
Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to several life-threatening health problems. It puts a heavy strain on the heart, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks, and it also contributes to kidney disease and strokes. In the U.S. alone it’s estimated that high blood pressure is a primary or major cause of over 1,100 deaths each day.
Although in some cases genetics play a part in determining who will develop high blood pressure, this in not the case for most of the population with hypertension. Much of the danger is linked to lifestyle factors, with diet making a huge contribution. A poor diet can be a direct cause of hypertension, while a healthy diet will not only reduce the risk, but can help control the symptoms if the condition is already established. So what should you consider if you want to eat in a way that encourages lower blood pressure?
The American College of Cardiology states that diet modification that mimics the DASH diet plan can lower your blood pressure my approximately 11 mm Hg. At first this might not seems like a significant reduction but if a 10mm Hg reduction in blood can prevent you from adding another blood pressure medication then it something worth exploring. It all starts with evaluating your current food choices and modifying where necessary.
Foods to Avoid
Salt is far and away the most dangerous dietary cause of high blood pressure. Too much salt in your body reduces you kidneys’ ability to flush out excess fluids, and the resulting high levels of water in your system directly raise blood pressure. While a certain amount of salt is necessary for life, the average western diet contains more than twice the recommended maximum amount.
While it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of salt you add to meals at the table, the majority of the salt you eat will probably be in the form of highly processed foods. Trying to eat fresh ingredients wherever possible is usually far more effective in reducing your salt intake than sprinkling a little less on your food at mealtimes.
Also, foodstuffs which are high in saturated fats should be avoided. These fats raise your blood’s cholesterol levels, which can lead to deposits building up in your veins and arteries, forcing your blood through a smaller space and so raising your blood pressure.
Foods to Eat More Of
However, controlling blood pressure isn’t all about restricting your diet. There are several foods which can have positive effects if you eat more of them.
– Foods high in potassium can help your kidneys filter out excess sodium in your blood, therefore reducing salt’s harmful effects. Good sources of potassium include leafy greens, sweet potatoes, wild salmon, beans, and bananas.
– Fiber plays a vital role in reducing cholesterol levels in your blood, yet most people don’t consume enough of it. Foods that are rich in fiber include most types of grains and cereals, beans of all kinds, berries, leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds.
– Magnesium is thought to have a modest influence on lowering blood pressure, particularly in older men. This vital mineral is found in many of the same foods as potassium, as well as in fruits including apples and figs.
– Garlic has long been held to help purify the blood and improve circulation. However, much of the benefit is thought to be lost through cooking, so if the prospect of consuming raw garlic is worrying, consider taking it in capsule form.
In essence, the best way to control blood pressure through your diet is to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid highly processed foods as much as possible. If you choose to eat meat and dairy, then opt for lean and low-fat versions, and try to reduce the amount of salt you add to food both in cooking and at the table.
Eating well may not be a 100 percent guarantee that you’ll avoid high blood pressure, but of all the factors under your control, it’s by far the one with the most influence, and a good diet will benefit your health in many other areas along the way.