Hypertension is a prevalent condition affecting one in four Canadians. If left unattended, it may increase the risk of complications such as stroke and heart diseases.

Dietary and lifestyle changes along with medications can help manage the disease and lower the risk of associated complications.

Here is how foods can affect your blood pressure and how you can lower blood pressure by making changes in your diet. The article also details other lifestyle modifications to manage hypertension.

Food and Its Effects On Blood Pressure

Diet can significantly affect your blood pressure. Sugary, salty, and fatty (rich in saturated fats) foods can increase your blood pressure. Limiting their intake or avoiding them will aid in maintaining a healthy blood pressure

If you have hypertension, following the DASH diet can help you lower your blood pressure up to 11 mm Hg. (more on it below).

Besides, limiting sodium intake can lower your blood pressure by 5 to 6 mm of Hg.

All in all, what you eat will decide if your blood pressure is within normal limits or high.

  • Some foods can increase your blood pressure
  • Some foods can lower your blood pressure
  • Foods that help you lose weight can help to lower your blood pressure
  • Foods that promote weight gain can cause your blood pressure to increase

Let’s understand more about these food options.

Foods to Avoid If You Suffer from High Blood Pressure

Here are some food options that increase blood pressure and thus should be avoided:

  • Regular salad dressings
  • Whole milk dairy products
  • Salted snacks
  • Fast foods
  • Butter and margarine
  • Fatty meats
  • Fried foods
  • Canned soups
  • Deli meats

Foods That Help Lower Blood Pressure

Here are some food options that promote healthy blood pressure:

  • Lean meat
  • Low-salt cereals
  • Low-salt and low-fat cheeses
  • Plain pasta, rice, and potatoes
  • Skimmed or 1% milk
  • Greek yogurt
  • Skinless chicken and turkey
  • Cooked cereals and not the instant ones
  • Frozen, fresh, or canned fruits (without salt)
  • Frozen, fresh, or canned vegetables (without added salt)
  • Orange, green, and red colored food items
  • Bagels, bread, rolls, English muffins, and tortillas
  • Unsalted seeds such as squash, pumpkin, and sunflower
  • Unsalted nuts

Diet for Hypertension

Healthy dietary habits, including tracking your calories and limiting portion sizes, can lower blood pressure and even reduce the need for antihypertensives.

Here are some ways you can go about it:

  • Tracking your meals: Unless you track your food, you might not realize how many calories you have in a day. Write what you have with portion sizes. You can then gradually cut down your calorie intake.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Alcohol should be consumed only in moderation. The recommended amount of alcohol for women is one drink a day. For men, it is two drinks a day.
  • Be mindful of your salt intake: High-sodium foods increase your blood pressure. The lesser the sodium you have, the lower is your blood pressure.

Things to consider while reducing sodium intake:

  • Aim for less than one teaspoon of salt a day (2,300 mg). In some cases, your doctor may also ask to lower your sodium intake up to 1,500 mg.
  • Select foods with 5% or less of the daily value of sodium while selecting packed foods
  • Avoid foods with 20% or more daily sodium value
  • Use salt-free seasonings
  • Avoid processed foods, canned foods, fast foods, and lunch meats

Another important factor to consider is increasing magnesium, potassium, and fiber intake. Vegetables and fruits are rich in these nutrients. The best part is that they are low in sodium, making them an ideal option for people with hypertension.

You can add the following to your diet:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Green beans
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Fat-free yogurt
  • Tomatoes
  • Apricots
  • Beet greens
  • Carrots
  • Dates
  • Green peas
  • Lima beans
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Raisins
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tuna

DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a diet plan involving eating foods rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy. As mentioned above, these foods are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and low in sodium and saturated fats. These foods are also rich in calcium and protein that have beneficial effects on your blood pressure.

DASH diet is devoid of sweetened beverages, red and processed meats, desserts, and fats.

A typical DASH diet recommends the following (for 2,000 calories a day)

  • Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
  • Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
  • Grains: 2-8 daily servings
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds: 4-5 servings per week
  • Lean meat, fish, and poultry: 2 or few daily servings
  • Sweets: Less than 5 servings per week
  • Oils and fats: 2-3 daily servings

One serving is:

  • 1 slice bread
  • ½ cup cooked fruit or vegetables
  • 1 cup raw fruit or vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon of oils
  • 3 ounces tofu
  • ½ cup cooked rice or pasta
  • 8 ounces of milk
  • 3 ounces cooked meat

You can take the help of your dietitian or physician to find out the ideal calories and modifications in the DASH diet if any.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Control Blood Pressure

Lifestyle modifications, including regular exercise and managing stress, can help lowering blood pressure.

Here are some lifestyle modifications that help control blood pressure:

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Blood pressure is directly proportional to your weight. Besides, being overweight causes other complications, such as sleep apnea, which may further elevate your blood pressure.

Losing weight is the most important lifestyle factor for managing blood pressure. Losing one kilogram (2.2 pounds) can help to lower about 1 mm Hg of blood pressure.

You should also maintain an ideal waistline. Increased weight around your waist may increase your risk for hypertension and its complications.

In general:

  • The risk is higher if your waistline is greater than 35 inches if you are women
  • The risk is higher if your waistline is greater than 40 inches

Be Active

Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm of Hg if your blood pressure is higher. Being consistent is also essential in achieving these results.

The recommended physical activity is moderate intensity exercises for 30 minutes most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week.

Some examples of exercises are:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing

You can also try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves short bursts of intense activity alternating with recovery periods of lighter activity. It is seen that strength training can also help in lowering blood pressure. You can include strength training exercise two days a week.

All in all, being active lowers your blood pressure if you have hypertension. If your blood pressure is normal, it aids in reducing the risk of hypertension.

You can consult your doctor about safe levels of exercise to lower your blood pressure. They can also help you curate an exercise program for you.

Limiting Alcohol Intake

While moderate alcohol intake promotes healthy blood pressure levels, excess consumption is seen to have the opposite effect.

Ideal alcohol consumption is:

  • One drink a day for women
  • Two drinks a day for men

One drink is five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor

This can help to lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm of Hg.

However, excess drinking can increase blood pressure by several points and reduce the effectiveness of medicines used to manage hypertension.

Quit smoking

Smoking increases your blood pressure for many minutes after each cigarette. Stopping to smoke can help to keep your blood pressure within normal limits. Besides, it can also help to lower the risk of cardiovascular complications and boost your general health.

Limit Caffeine Intake

It is seen that excess caffeine consumption can increase your blood pressure by up to 10 mm of Hg in people who rarely consume it. However, this may not be the case for someone who consumes caffeine daily. 

The long-term effect of caffeine on your blood pressure is not clear.

You can check your blood pressure 30 minutes after caffeine consumption to see its effect on your blood pressure. If your body is sensitive to caffeine (blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm of Hg), it is best to limit its intake.

Manage Your Stress Levels

It is well known that chronic stress is a major contributing factor to hypertension. Occasional stress can also impair your blood pressure if you manage it by eating junk food, smoking, or having alcohol. 

Try and figure out what is causing stress. Is it a family, finances, or work problem? Once you find out the cause, it may be easier for you to manage stress.

You can try the following to manage your stress if you cannot avoid it altogether:

  • Change your expectations, and it is better to accept things that are not under your control. For instance, try and learn to say NO if you have too much on your plate. Plan your day and focus on priorities.
  • Find out the problems and find the solution for the same. For instance, for a problem at work, try talking to your manager. For issues at home, try and resolve things with your spouse or kids.
  • Avoid stress boosters. For instance, if traffic while going to work is causing stress, try leaving earlier in the morning.
  • Allocate time to do relax and activities that you enjoy. Make time for enjoyable hobbies or activities such as cooking, walk, or volunteering.
  • Practice gratitude
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Try yoga and meditation

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Regular monitoring of blood pressure can help to understand variations. You can make changes in your lifestyle or diet accordingly. You can regularly check blood pressure at home and also by visiting your doctor. You can also ask your doctor how frequently you need to monitor your blood pressure. 

It can help your doctor understand the effectiveness of medicines and alert them of the increased risk of any complications.

Final Thoughts

A healthy diet and lifestyle can help lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is normal, they aid in reducing your risk for hypertension.

Foods that may help you lower blood pressure are vegetables, fruits, nuts, oats, herbs, spices, and lentils. On the other hand, foods rich in saturated fats, salt, and sugar increase your blood pressure.

Eating healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm of Hg. Besides, lifestyle modifications such as being active and managing your weight can help manage hypertension.

For any doubts about foods to lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

Read More... 344 Views