High blood pressure refers to the high pressure of blood against the artery walls. If left unchecked, high blood pressure causes irreparable blood vessel damage that eventually leads to stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
There are a couple of lifestyle choices that you can make to keep your blood pressure manageable. These include exercising more regularly, losing weight if you are overweight to start with, cutting alcohol and salt intake, and making smarter food choices.
Of these changes, making smarter food choices is the simplest to implement and must always accompany any or all of the other lifestyle changes if you are to lower your high blood pressure in a way that makes any sense.
In this article, we examine the smart food choices you should be making, discussing the foods that you should be eating to lower your high blood pressure and those that you should not be eating.
Here is what you should eat for lower blood pressure:
Leafy greens: Vegetables such as romaine lettuce, kale, turnip greens, arugula, Swiss chard, and collard greens are high in potassium which helps the kidneys to eliminate sodium from the body via urine. This helps to lower blood pressure. Always go for the fresh or frozen kind, not the canned ones as canned vegetables usually have added sodium.
Bananas: Another way of introducing potassium into your meals is to eat bananas. You can take a banana with your breakfast and leave the leafy greens for dinner.
Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel: Not only are salmon and mackerel great sources of lean protein, they also have a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation. So, ditch that piece of beef for a fillet of salmon. An added benefit is that fish is usually easier to cook than meat.
Blueberries: Blueberries contain flavonoids, which are compounds which research has determined to be useful in preventing high blood pressure from happening in the first place. For variety, add raspberries and strawberries to your diet as well.
Oatmeal: The old-fashioned kind of oatmeal has moderate sodium, low-fat, and fiber content and this makes it one of the more preferred breakfast meals for persons living with high blood pressure. What more, it is a good way to get started on the right nutrition every morning.
Beets: Beets have high levels of nitric oxide, which is highly instrumental in opening up blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. Roast beetroots or juice your beets; either way is perfect.
Yogurt and skim milk: People with high blood pressure are advised to up their intake of calcium and yogurt and skim milk are excellent sources of calcium. What more, they are also low in fat which is quite important for lowering blood pressure. Always make sure that your yogurt does not contain any added sugar though.
Garlic: Garlic not only makes food taste great but can also help to reduce blood pressure by increasing the level of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps our arteries to widen properly and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Dark chocolate: The more dark chocolate you consume, the lower your risk for heart disease, says a study. It typically contains more than 60 percent cocoa solids and does not have as much sugar as regular chocolate.
Unsalted seeds: Go the unsalted seeds route by eating some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or squash seeds. These are high in potassium, magnesium, and other great minerals are proven to reduce blood pressure.
Olive oil: We all need some type of oil to cook our foods in, and olive oil is best for hypertensive patients. It is a healthy fat that contains polyphenols, which helps to combat inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Pomegranates: This is one of the more perfect fruits as you can either juice it or enjoy it raw. It is said that consuming one cup of pomegranate juice daily for four weeks can help lower blood pressure in the short term.
Foods to avoid
Just as there are foods to embrace to help you drive your blood pressure down, there are those that you must at all costs avoid. Here they are:
Salt: Limit your daily sodium intake to just 1,500 mg. If you can, eliminate salt from your diet completely. This means avoiding deli meat, vegetable juices, canned soup, frozen pizza, and bottled tomato products.
Trans fat: Trans fats are usually found in pre-packaged foods, typically created in a process called hydrogenation, in which liquid oils are suffused with air to make a solid oil so as to increase shelf life. Trans fat, when consumed too much, leads to bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. So, avoid pre-packaged and pre-processed foods as much as you can.
Alcohol: While we are all allowed moderate amounts of alcohol from time to time, drinking too much alcohol actually increases blood pressure. If you are already on medication for high blood pressure, alcohol may also prevent such medication from working properly. You will, therefore, do well to limit your alcohol intake.
Sugar: Excessive sugar intake is linked to high blood pressure, and most of us consume not just table sugar but sugar-sweetened drinks and sodas as well. As much as you can, avoid these.