Diets high in sodium and saturated fat, and low in calcium, magnesium and potassium, are common risk factors in hypertension, joining stress, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes and being overweight.
Follow these healthy eating and lifestyle tips to avoid or manage high blood pressure:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Why? Obesity increases blood pressure and creates added stress on the heart. Obesity can also cause increased blood sugars and insulin levels. This can cause the body to hold onto excess salt and water and increase blood pressure.
- Participate in regular physical activity.
- Why? Exercise causes dilation of blood vessels which helps to reduce blood pressure. It also has a positive effect on lipids and diabetes, and also reduces the risk of heart disease through a variety of mechanisms.
- Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (8-10 half-cup servings daily).
- Why? Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, which helps improve blood pressure.
- Avoid excess amounts high-sodium foods such as canned soups, canned vegetables, processed meats and snack foods such as salty chips, etc.
- Why? Sodium can cause the body to hold onto excess fluid and increase blood pressure. If using canned vegetables, drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly with cold water to reduce sodium content.
- The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, which is based on research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, provides a full list of guidelines to help reduce blood pressure through healthy eating.
- Why? The DASH diet calls for avoiding saturated and total fat and cholesterol as much as possible, while cutting down on sweets, sugary beverages and red meat. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans and seeds or nuts can make a marked difference in lowering blood pressure. It is a high-fiber, low- to moderate-fat diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.