What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. About 50 million Americans (one in four adults) have hypertension. High blood pressure means there is higher-than-normal pressure on the blood vessel walls as blood flows through the vessels. When blood pressure is too high and remains that way, the artery walls become weakened and are more prone to fatty plaque buildup (atherosclerosis). The heart must then work harder to pump blood through the clogged arteries, which may damage the heart muscle as well as artery walls.
How to Lower Your Blood Pressure:
- Eat a healthy diet - Recent studies suggest that a high intake of sodium may not be solely responsible for high blood pressure. Too little of some minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium might be an important link to high blood pressure. A diet low in total and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods can significantly lower blood pressure.
- Lose weight - Extra body fat, especially around the waist and midriff, increases the risk for high blood pressure because the heart must work harder to pump the blood. Bringing your weight down to normal may be all you need to do to keep your blood pressure under control.
- Get moving - Regular aerobic exercise like walking and cycling can help you lose weight and control high blood pressure.
- Relieve stress - For some people, stress may be a risk factor, although the evidence isn't clear-cut - try exercise, yoga, meditation or aromatherapy.
- Quit smoking - Powerful chemicals in inhaled cigarette smoke prompt blood vessel walls to constrict temporarily increasing pressure on blood flowing through arteries.
- Limit alcohol - Heavy drinking may increase the risk for high blood pressure.
- Control diabetes - People with diabetes may develop high blood pressure if their condition isn't managed carefully. Arteries of those with diabetes may be more easily damaged, and this damage increases the risk of developing clogged arteries.
- Take your medications as directed - Many people are able to control hypertension through the various lifestyle changes listed above. Some people, however, will need medication to keep blood pressure in check. If you are taking medications, follow all instructions for maximum benefits.
Eat More of These...
Low Sodium Foods:
Fresh meat, fresh poultry, fresh seafood, fresh or plain frozen vegetables, fruit, fruit juices, herbs/spices, plain rice/pastas, unsalted cereal, unsalted crackers.
Potassium Rich Foods:
Fresh fruits - especially bananas, fresh vegetables - especially potatoes, legumes, dairy products, whole grains, wheat germ, orange juice.
Magnesium Rich Foods:
Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, bananas.
Calcium Rich Foods:
Milk, cheese, calcium fortified soy milk, calcium fortified orange juice, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, almonds.