Taking care of your heart is one of the best things you can do for yourself. This calls for managing high blood pressure, a condition associated with heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even blindness. Not sure where to start? Begin with a heart-friendly diet called the DASH eating plan. From dark chocolate to pomegranates, you can also tackle your blood pressure through the power of food. Your body – and heart – will thank you for it!
The heart is the body’s powerhouse. It fuels your organs with enough oxygen and nutrients to keep your body going. But when high blood pressure develops, things can go a little awry. Your heart has to work harder to get the job done.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is no stranger to the American population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults in the United States have high blood pressure. This condition is characterized by a blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher. It can increase your risk for undesirable conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness – just to name a few.
If you have hypertension, managing your blood pressure can be a game changer for your health. For some, this might mean medication. However, there is also quite a bit you can do to naturally control your blood pressure. Regulating your weight by staying active and eating right can go a long way. Diet plays an especially important role. Check out this game plan for lowering blood pressure through food.
DASH To Lower Your Blood Pressure
The National Institutes of Health has developed an eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) designed to lower blood pressure. This plan focuses on eating habits that help keep hypertension at bay.
Eat: It is no surprise that fruits and vegetables are the superstars of DASH. Opt for 4-5 servings of each group on the daily. Keep things interesting by focusing on a variety of colors and preparation techniques. The DASH plan also recommends poultry, fish, and whole grains. Nuts and low-fat dairy also make the cut. Aside from nourishing your body with fiber and protein, these foods also provide vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Limit: DASH is all about cutting back on foods that are high in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Additionally, it is crucial to limit sugar intake and minimize salt consumption. Aim for the recommended 2,300 milligrams or less of sodium per day. This equals to 1 teaspoon (6 grams) of table salt. Remember, table salt is not the only source of sodium. Everyday foods like soy sauce, baking soda, canned soup, and salad dressing are high sources of sodium. Keep tabs on your intake by carefully reading food labels. Do not fret, though – toning down your sodium consumption does not mean that you have to sacrifice flavor. Add onions, garlic, spices, and herbs to help your taste buds warm up to a low-sodium, heart-friendly diet.
Choose Foods That Naturally Lower Blood Pressure
In addition to following the DASH plan, you can also reach for foods that have a proven history of lowering blood pressure. It might just be that extra boost that your heart needs.
1. Dark Chocolate
Polyphenols (organic chemicals) found in cocoa, especially flavanols, boast powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They have been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and helps lower blood pressure. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming flavanol-rich dark chocolate for just 15 days reduced hypertension.
Furthermore, it improved glucose sensitivity in people who had high blood pressure and glucose intolerance. So go ahead and indulge in some dark chocolate. It is a real treat for your heart!
This delicious fruit known for its ruby red seeds has wonderful medicinal properties. A study in Phytotherapy Research delved into the effects of pomegranate juice by giving people with high blood pressure a daily glass (150 ml) of pomegranate juice between lunch and dinner for two weeks. Pomegranate, which is rich in antioxidants and bioactive polyphenols, was found to be effective at lowering blood pressure.
If you have hypertension, a simple bowl of oats can turn things around. Research has found that soluble fiber-rich whole oats have the ability to significantly lower blood pressure. They can also reduce the level of “bad cholesterol” in your body. Talk about a power-packed breakfast that can help your heart in multiple ways.
This juicy summer fruit is loaded with amino acids (L-citrulline) which can increase nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels and is associated with lower blood pressure.
A study found that when people with hypertension ate watermelon twice a day for six weeks, they saw a reduction in their aortic systolic blood pressure (that is, blood pressure when your heart beats as against blood pressure in between beats). The experiment also observed a decrease in arterial stiffness, ensuring that blood can pass through with ease.
If beetroots do not have a place in your diet, maybe it is time to give them a second look. These veggies can really pack a punch when it comes to managing hypertension. A study found that blood pressure took a major plunge in healthy participants about three hours after consuming beetroot juice. The main player? Nitrate from the beetroot. The body converts this natural chemical into nitric oxide, which can have a desirable impact on blood pressure.
When you crush or chop garlic, an organic compound called allicin develops. This substance dilates blood vessels and inhibits angiotensin II, a hormone that causes vessels to constrict. Various studies have found that garlic can effectively reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. So, aside from enhancing your food, this pungent bulb can take your blood pressure down a notch. Talk about some serious talent!