How to Eat for High Blood Pressure

Blood pressureTwo thirds of our population are affected by high blood pressure (Image via Wikipedia)

One in four Americans is affected by high blood pressure However, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, only about two-thirds of those with high blood pressure know they have it and less than 30% have it under control.  This is a significant health issue that carries significant long-term consequences like stroke, heart failure, and damage to other organs.  Managing high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension, is the best way to prevent these problems from occurring.

As part of this month’s National High Blood Pressure Education Month, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is urging every American to check their blood pressure and talk to their doctor if it is over 140/90.  Managing hypertension often requires a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, including increasing activity and eating a diet specifically aimed at controlling blood pressure.

The NHLBI recommends that people with hypertension follow the DASH plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  The plan also recommends that those with this condition take steps to limit their sodium intake.  There are two levels included in the plan related to sodium intake.  The first and highest allows for 2,300 mg of sodium per day which is the maximum recommended for any American, regardless of their blood pressure.  For those with high blood pressure, this level can help manage and control the problem.  The second level is more restrictive, allowing only 1,500 mg and has shown to be more effective and reducing blood pressure.

Based on research supported by the NHLBI, the best diet for those with hypertension is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugar, and sugar-laden beverages.  Instead, those with hypertension are encouraged to focus their diet on fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.  While the diet focuses on reducing fat and sodium, it also aims to increase important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber.

Here in Arizona, our access to locally grown and fabulously fresh produce, meat, and dairy products makes it easy to implement small dietary changes in support of good heart health and normal blood pressure.  Also, for meat choices, reference our 29 Lean Cuts of Beef for additional ideas.  Whether you shop at the farmer’s market or the grocery store, you can find a wide range of seasonal food options that will help you manage your blood pressure without feeling like you are giving anything up.

Here are some great ways that you can swap fresh heart healthy Arizona foods for less blood pressure friendly options.

  • Instead of a bowl of potato chips or a handful of cookies for some fresh fruit.  Apples, oranges, dried apricots are all great options.
  • You can still have a delicious burger cooked on the grill, just make sure you use lean Arizona ground beef and decrease the size of the patty to around three ounces.  Swap your old white bread bun for one made from whole wheat for an extra health boost.
  • Swap fried chicken for chicken stir-fry and replace some of the chicken with fabulous fresh vegetables like bell peppers, onions, broccoli, sprouts, and carrots.
  • Swap skim milk for whole milk and frozen yogurt for ice cream and improve your health without sacrificing taste.
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