What is a good high blood pressure diet?
A good high blood pressure diet is not only rich in important nutrients and fiber but also includes foods that contain far more electrolytes, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, than are found in the average American diet. Avoid saturated fat (although include calcium-rich dairy products that are no- or low-fat). When choosing fats, select monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola oils. Choose whole grains over white flour or pasta products. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Many of these foods are rich in fiber, which may help lower blood pressure. Important foods include most fruits (especially potassium-rich fruits including bananas, oranges, prunes, and cantaloupes) and vegetables (especially carrots, spinach, celery, alfalfa, mushrooms, lima beans, potatoes, avocados, broccoli).
Note: Grapefruit and bitter oranges (also called Seville of sour oranges) boost the effects of calcium-channel blocking drugs, which are often used for hypertension. Choose modest amounts of protein (preferably fish, poultry, or soy products). Soy in combination with fiber-rich foods or supplements may have specific benefits. Oily fish may also be particularly beneficial. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with heart and nerve protection.
A combination of the DASH diet and salt restriction is extremely effective in reducing blood pressure. About half of people with hypertension have blood pressure that reacts significantly to salt. Such people are known to be salt-sensitive. High-salt diets in anyone who is salt-sensitive may harm the heart, kidney, and brain and increase the risk for death, regardless of their blood pressure. Overweight individuals may absorb and retain sodium differently from people with normal weights. In fact, one 1999 study reported that high sodium intake was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality in overweight, but not in normal weight, people. Unfortunately, because overweight people generally consume more calories, they are also likely take in more sodium. Restricting salt also enhances the benefits of nearly all standard antihypertensive drugs by reducing potassium loss, and may help protect against kidney disease in patients who are also taking calcium-blocker drugs.
Everyone, regardless of their blood pressure, should consume less than 2,400 milligrams (about one teaspoon) of sodium each day. People with hypertension should strive for even lower intake. Simply eliminating table and cooking salt can be beneficial. Salt substitutes, such as Cardia, containing mixtures of potassium, sodium, and magnesium are available, but they are expensive. It should be noted, however, that about 75% of the salt in the typical American diet comes from processed or commercial foods, not from food cooked at home, so the benefits of table-salt substitutes are likely to be very modest. Some sodium is essential to protect the heart, but most experts agree that the amount is significantly less than that found in the average American diet. If people cannot significantly reduce the amount of salt in their diets, adding potassium-rich foods might help to restore a healthy balance.
Omega 3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids) are found in oily fish. Studies are indicating that they may have specific benefits for many medical conditions, including hypertension. They appear to help keep blood vessels flexible and may also help protect the nervous system. The fatty acids are also available in supplements, although over-the-counter supplements are not regulated and their effects on health are not known. The long-term effects on blood pressure are not known. Calcium regulates the tone of the smooth muscles lining blood vessels, and population studies have found that people who have sufficient dietary calcium have lower blood pressure than those who do not. Hypertension itself increases calcium loss from the body. Some, but not all, studies have found modest beneficial effects on blood pressure from calcium supplements. Sufficient calcium is important, in any case, for strong bones.
Omega 3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids) are found in oily fish. Studies are indicating that they may have specific benefits for many medical conditions, including hypertension. They appear to help keep blood vessels flexible and may also help protect the nervous system. The fatty acids are also available in supplements, although over-the-counter supplements are not regulated and their effects on health are not known. Antioxidants are any substances that help the body eliminate oxidants, or oxygen free radicals, which are damaging particles produced as part of the body's chemical processes. Some antioxidant supplements, including vitamins C and E and alpha-lipoic acid, are being studied for possible benefits in protecting against hypertension by preventing injury in the blood vessels. Alpha-lipoic acid for example prevented elevated blood pressure in rats. Vitamin C apparently also has specific benefits for hypertension by preventing dangerous effects on nitric acid, the substance that keeps arteries flexible.
More information on high blood pressure
What is blood pressure? - Blood pressure or arterial blood pressure is the pressure (force per unit area) exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)? - High blood pressure or hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. High blood pressure is generally defined as a level exceeding 140/90 mm Hg that has been confirmed on multiple occasions.
How to measure blood pressure? - Arterial blood pressure is usually measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) using a sphygmomanometer.
What causes high blood pressure? - High blood pressure is far more common in families where other members have this condition. There are also many other factors which are related to high blood pressure.
At what level is blood pressure too high? - Blood pressure is generally felt to be abnormally high at a level of 140/90, and some sort of definitive therapy and follow-up should be started at this level.
What is "white coat syndrome"? - "White coat syndrome" is a situation where patients have high blood pressure in the doctor's office but nowhere else.
What're the symptoms of high blood pressure? - High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms. Sometimes people with high blood pressure have symptoms including headache, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed? - The diagnosis of high blood pressure is made on the basis of many blood pressure readings. It is diagnosed if several readings show a systolic blood pressure greater than 140 or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 90.
What is isolated systolic hypertension? - Isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) is defined as elevated systolic blood pressure in conjunction with normal diastolic blood pressure (<90 mm Hg).
Why and how isolated systolic hypertension (ISH ) develops? - Factors that may play a role in the high prevalence of ISH seen in Western societies include increased body fat, sedentary lifestyle, and increased sodium intake.
What is white coat hypertension? - White coat hypertension should be considered when blood pressure readings are significantly elevated in the absence of target-organ damage.
What is borderline hypertension? - Borderline hypertension is a blood pressure level which is in the 'gray zone' between normal and high (for example, someone with an average pressure of about 140/90 mmHg).
What is malignant hypertension (arteriolar nephrosclerosis)? - Malignant hypertension is an acute emergency requiring immediate treatment in hospital.
What is labile hypertension? - 'Labile' means variable, and just about everyone with hypertension has 'lablie hypertension.'
What is pulmonary hypertension? - Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the pulmonary circulation (the arteries which go to the lungs). The blood pressure in the arms and the rest of the body is normal or low.
What is renovascular hypertension? - Renovascular hypertension is a secondary form of high blood pressure caused by a narrowing of the renal artery.
What're the risk factors for high blood pressure? - Controllable factors contribute to high blood pressure include sodium (salt) sensitivity, obesity and overweight, heavy alcohol consumption, use of oral contraceptives and some other medications, and sedentary or inactive lifestyle.
What're the complications of high blood pressure? - Blood vessels can narrow due to high blood pressure and the accumulation of cholesterol. Blockage of arteries in the brain can lead to stroke. Blockage of blood vessels in the kidneys can lead to kidney failure.
How does body weight affect hypertension? - Studies have shown that body weight, changes in body weight over time, and skinfold thickness are related to changes in blood pressure levels.
What're the treatment options for high blood pressure? - The goal of treatment is to reduce blood pressure to a level where there is decreased risk of complications. Treatment may occur at home with close supervision by the health care provider, or may occur in the hospital.
What medications are available for high blood pressure? - Medications may include diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or alpha blockers.
Which lifestyle modifications are beneficial in treating hypertension? - Lifestyle modifications refer to certain specific recommendations for changes in diet and exercise.
What is a good high blood pressure diet? - A good high blood pressure diet is not only rich in important nutrients and fiber but also includes foods that contain far more electrolytes, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, than are found in the average American diet.