What to Eat for Lower Blood Pressure
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is responsible for about 395,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year. Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure that exists inside of your blood vessels at any given time.
How to Read Your Blood Pressure Measurement
The top number in a blood pressure measurement is known as your SYSTOLIC blood pressure and it reflects the amount of pressure inside of your blood vessels when your heart makes a beat. An ideal range for this number is about 110-120. The systolic blood pressure tends to rise with age, stress, illness and as side effect of some medications. The bottom number in a blood pressure measurement is known at the DIASTOLIC blood pressure and is a reflection of the amount of pressure inside of your blood vessel when the heart is at rest. The ideal range for this number is about 60-80. This number tends to rise with being overweight, out of shape, illness and also some medications.
Blood pressure has been referred to as a ‘silent killer’ because often a rise in blood pressure can come with NO WARNING or symptoms. The only way to know your blood pressure reading is to have it checked at your doctor’s office, a clinic or with an approved monitoring device.
Blood pressure that spikes periodically or that stays consistently high can lead to stroke, heart attack, and kidney and eye damage. The good news is that if you are found to have high blood pressure (HBP), there are measures you can take to bring it down without necessarily needing medications=. If you do need to be treated with medications, it’s not the end of the world and you may not need to take them forever. In fact, many studies have shown that weight loss of even at little as 10% of your body weight can significantly lower your need for medications. As is true with many health conditions, old-fashioned diet and exercise is still an effective solution to many health issues.
How Your Diet Affects Blood Pressure
In November of 2011, the government reinforced a long-standing campaign to get us all eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and complex grains. The diet called the DASH diet became popular and basically mirrored the recommendations from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association:
- Limit your alcohol consumption to less than one beverage a day for women and two for men
- Keep your sodium intake under 2300 mg a day total
- Limit your intake of high-fat proteins
- Increase your intake of whole fruits, vegetables and complex whole grain foods
Foods that have found to have health benefits in terms of lowering your blood pressure include:
- Fruits: papaya, guava, figs, cantaloupe, prunes, kiwi, strawberries
- Raisins – 60 a day 2-3 times per day has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure by 3-5 point. Most raisins probably have pesticide residue so consider buying organic.
- Pomegranate juice – one serving once a day can lead to a 20 % drop in blood pressure
- Vegetables such as Swiss chard, lima beans, yams, squash, avocados, and spinach
- Celery contains phthalides which can help to relax the muscles contained within the arteries
- Other foods such as garlic, dark chocolate, olive oils, and omega 3 containing foods like certain fish
How Exercise Can Affect Blood Pressure
The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends that each of us engage in daily activity. Ideally, aerobic activity such as walking, running or using your Total Gym equipment should be done for at least 30 minutes at a time 4-5 days a week for overall cardiovascular and physical fitness conditioning. In most cases, your blood pressure will run 5-10 points lower on days you have been active compared to days when you haven’t. This effect of blood pressure lowering can be sustained for 24-36 hours, making the need for daily blood pressure medications less likely.
The bottom line is that a healthy and balanced diet, daily exercise, adequate restorative sleep and limited alcohol consumption can help naturally reduce your blood pressure. Always remember to talk with your doctor for specific suggestions designed just for you, and never stop your medications without talking with your doctor first.
Until next time, keep exercising faithfully and here’s to your best health ever!!!
Elizabeth Salada MD,MPH
Internal Medicine and wellness