In many cases, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. However, it is known that the foods that you eat play a role in regulating blood pressure. Regularly consuming certain foods can contribute to hypertension. Fortunately, you can modify your risk — you have the power to make choices that promote healthy blood pressure.
At CA Heart and Vein Specialists, cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, wants patients to know about the connection between diet and hypertension. Currently, more than 100 million American adults have high blood pressure, and many of them are unaware of it.
That's why it's important to schedule regular check-ups with your physician to track your blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors, such as your cholesterol and blood sugar. Here's what to know about how your diet could be affecting your blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the force that pushes against your blood vessel walls during and between heartbeats. Ideally, your arteries should remain soft, flexible, and free of excess force against the blood vessel walls.
High blood pressure occurs when the force against your artery walls is regularly elevated beyond the normal range. An ideal blood pressure is below 120/80. You’re diagnosed with hypertension when your blood pressure is consistently above 130/80.
How does diet affect blood pressure?
Your body works hard to keep things in balance, and this includes your blood pressure. However, you may be eating foods that increase your blood pressure without being aware of it. If you have high blood pressure, or if you’re at risk for high blood pressure, it's important to discuss nutrition with your doctor.
High-sodium foods raise blood pressure
Your body needs a small amount of sodium to function properly. But if you're like most Americans, you’re eating much more than the recommended amount of salt. Sodium draws and retains fluids, which increases the pressure against your artery walls.
The American Heart Association recommends that you limit sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day if your blood pressure is in a healthy range and no more than 1,500 mg per day if you have high blood pressure or heart disease risk factors.
Processed, packaged, and ready-made meals are the largest culprits of excess sodium in the American diet. Preparing your own meals at home is one of the fastest ways to slash excess sodium from your diet.
When you do consume packaged or canned foods, look for a low sodium label. Sodium can sneak its way into your diet through unsuspecting foods like condiments such as ketchup and ready-to-eat cereals. Excess sodium may even lurk in foods that seem healthy, such as protein bars.
Magnesium and potassium promote healthy blood pressure
Boosting your intake of magnesium- and potassium-rich foods while lowering your intake of sodium can go a long way in promoting healthy blood pressure. In fact, it can reduce blood pressure as much as one blood pressure medication, according to a study published in the Journal of Hypertension.
That's why it's important to eat plenty of fresh vegetables because they’re rich in magnesium and potassium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that women aim to eat at least 2-3 cups of vegetables a day and men should aim for 3-4 cups daily. Women and men should consume 1 ½ and 2 ½ cups of fruit, respectively. By hitting these targets, you'll get plenty of blood pressure-lowering magnesium and potassium.
What foods should I eat to lower blood pressure?
Stocking up on fresh or frozen vegetables along with lean proteins, unsalted nuts and seeds, fresh or frozen fruit, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats is a good place to start when it comes to outfitting your pantry to help manage your blood pressure.
Make sure you eat a variety of foods, and learn to read food labels. Check products for sodium and potassium as well as fiber. Getting enough fiber in your diet is also important in maintaining good cardiovascular health.
Managing high blood pressure
Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week can help manage blood pressure. If you're overweight, develop a plan with your doctor to bring your weight into a healthy range.
In some cases, diet and lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower blood pressure. When this is the case, Dr. Chane works with you to find the right blood pressure medication to normalize your levels and protect your heart health.
If you have hypertension, we can help. Give our Huntington Beach, California, office a call at 657-206-8630 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane. You can also send your booking request online today.