How to eat to lower blood pressure

How to eat to lower blood pressure

Keeping your blood pressure in check is important for your health.

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If it’s too high, your blood pressure can lead to serious conditions like stroke or heart disease.

While medications like beta-blockers can help lower your blood pressure, did you know that certain foods and nutrients can help as well?

Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, shares how certain foods can help lower your blood pressure.

Types of food that can help lower blood pressure

Antioxidant-rich foods may have a small impact on blood pressure levels. Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, selenium or L-arginine are good options if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and can reduce inflammation, which, in turn, can keep blood pressure in control.

1. Foods high in vitamin C

Foods high in vitamin C can protect against oxidative stress, which causes inflammation. Good options include:

  • Peppers.
  • Kiwis.
  • Broccoli.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Strawberries.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes.

2. Foods high in vitamin E

The fat-soluble nutrient acts as an antioxidant to help protect cells from free radical damage. Try the following foods:

    .
  • Avocados.
  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Salmon.

3. Foods high in potassium

Potassium aids in blood pressure reduction by relaxing your blood vessels’ walls and helping your body remove excessive sodium. Foods include:

  • Bananas.
  • Potatoes.
  • Spinach.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Carrots.
  • Grapefruits.
  • Nuts/seeds like pistachios, almonds and flax seeds.
  • Avocados.

“Bananas are high in potassium, which helps your body get rid of sodium,” says Zumpano. “Eating foods high in sodium can increase your blood pressure.”

4. Foods high in selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect your body from oxidative stress. Choose these foods for selenium:

  • Seafood like tuna, halibut and shrimp.
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Chicken.
  • Turkey.

5. Foods high in L-arginine

L-arginine helps make nitric oxide, a chemical that aids in relaxing muscle cells. Some research shows these foods can help lower blood pressure:

  • Meat.
  • Poultry.
  • Nuts/seeds like pumpkin seeds, walnuts and peanuts.
  • Beans like chickpeas and soybeans.
  • Dairy like milk, yogurt and cheese.

6. Foods high in calcium

Studies have shown that meeting the recommended dietary allowance for calcium of 1,000 milligrams and getting up to 1,500 milligrams per day can improve blood pressure. Foods rich in calcium include:

  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese.
  • Almonds.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
  • Dried beans and peas.
  • Fortified tofu.
  • Fortified orange juice.
  • Fortified nondairy milks like almond, soy, coconut and oat.

Other foods that may help lower your blood pressure

Garlic may also help lower your blood pressure. Garlic has been shown to help reduce inflammation. Using garlic to add flavor to your food also helps you reduce salt, which can also help lower blood pressure.

Moderate amounts of alcohol have also been shown to help lower blood pressure. Women shouldn’t exceed one drink per day, while men shouldn’t have more than two drinks per day. Keep in mind, consuming greater quantities of alcohol can cause blood pressure to rise.

Some people should drink less than this amount, or not at all, though. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can interfere with certain medications and can increase your risk of other chronic conditions, including certain cancers and osteoporosis. Ask your health care provider if drinking alcohol is safe for you.

Do supplements work?

Certain supplements can help. But Zumpano warns that you should talk to your doctor before adding a supplement. Getting nutrients from whole foods is best.

Supplements can be risky, based on the type of supplement and the concentration taken, and may also interfere with certain medications.

The following supplements have shown promise:

    .
  • CoQ10. .

“You can find omega-3 fatty acids naturally in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel,” advises Zumpano. “Certain plants are also good sources like chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and soy.”

When it comes to CoQ10, the antioxidant may help your body’s total peripheral resistance, which can affect your blood pressure.

And you can also get a dose of magnesium without supplements by having a diet rich in nuts, seeds, whole grains, greens and dairy.

Adding these nutrients to your diet is a win-win situation. If you’re currently on a beta-blocker medication, you should talk to your doctor first.

“Getting the benefits naturally from foods is the best option,” says Zumpano. “Eating foods rich in antioxidants and nutrient-dense foods can improve your overall heart health.”

While including certain foods in your diet can aid in blood pressure reduction, your lifestyle choices can help, too.

“It’s very important to note exercise, stress reduction, a low-salt diet and maintaining a normal body weight can also positively influence blood pressure,” says Zumpano.

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Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The Eatwell Guide highlights the different types of food that make up our diet, and shows the proportions we should eat them in to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.

Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.

Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure.

Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Limit your alcohol intake

Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.

Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Find out how many units are in your favourite drink and get tips on cutting down.

Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.

Find out how many calories are in popular drinks

Lose weight

Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.

If you do need to lose some weight, it’s worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health.

Get active

Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.

Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening.

Get more ideas on how to get active

Cut down on caffeine

Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day may increase your blood pressure.

If you’re a big fan of coffee, tea or other caffeine-rich drinks, such as cola and some energy drinks, consider cutting down.

It’s fine to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet, but it’s important that these drinks are not your main or only source of fluid.

Stop smoking

Smoking does not directly cause high blood pressure, but it puts you at much higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Smoking, like high blood pressure, will cause your arteries to narrow.

If you smoke and have high blood pressure, your arteries will narrow much more quickly, and your risk of heart or lung disease in the future is dramatically increased.

Get help to stop smoking

Page last reviewed: 23 October 2019
Next review due: 23 October 2022

Fiddling with diet to control cholesterol makes perfect sense. After all, some of the cholesterol that ends up in arteries starts out in food. Changing your diet to control blood pressure doesn’t seem quite so straightforward. Yet food can have a direct and sometimes dramatic effect on blood pressure.

Salt certainly plays a role. But there is far more to a blood pressure–friendly diet than minimizing salt intake. Fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, beans, nuts, whole-grain carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats also have healthful effects on blood pressure.

There isn’t a single “magic” food in this list. Instead, it’s the foundation for an all-around healthful eating strategy that is good for blood pressure and so much more. Rigorous trials show that eating strategies such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, DASH variants like the OmniHeart diet, and Mediterranean-type diets lower blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and those headed in that direction. They also help prevent some of the feared consequences of high blood pressure.

Why bother?

Hypertension is the ultimate stealth condition. You’d never know you have it without having your blood pressure measured — or until high blood pressure begins to damage vital organs.

Half of the 65 million American adults with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. That’s worrisome given the insidious consequences of high blood pressure. It is the leading cause of stroke in the United States. It contributes to thousands of heart attacks. It overworks heart muscle, leading to heart failure. It damages the kidneys, erodes sight, interferes with memory, puts a damper on sexual activity, and steals years of life.

High blood pressure is a health issue that affects both young and old Australians alike, with close to 6 million Australians (34%) aged 18 years and over with high blood pressure.

Alarmingly it’s one of the leading risk factors for death and disability in Australia, as well as across the world.

One the easiest steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure is choosing healthy foods.

The foods we choose every day are important for our heart health. Research into high blood pressure shows us that the foods we consume can help to lower and manage high blood pressure.

But don’t worry, we’ve done the heavy lifting and read the research, all you need to do is read on. The following foods are your best bets in beating high blood pressure– based on the science.

Vegetables

While research on beetroots and high blood pressure has got a lot of coverage lately, don’t think that beetroot is the only vegetable of importance. Regularly having 4-5 serves of vegetables is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern, people who ate more vegetables and fruit compared to their regular diet (which was probably low in these natural superfoods) had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

Choose a variety of fruit and vegetables. The different colours offer different healthy nutrients. Read here for more information on what a serve is and ways to get more vegetables in your day.

Fruit

After reading about vegetables, it’s no surprise their partner fruit features in a healthy eating pattern for managing high blood pressure. Like vegetables, fruit is a rich source of potassium, magnesium and fibre.

Include a handful of frozen and washed berries on your yoghurt or a piece of fruit with nuts as a 3pm pick me up.

Fresh, frozen, canned fruit and vegetables all count towards your daily amount. Frozen and canned vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh. Read the nutrition information panel to avoid added salt and added sugar in these varieties, and check out our tips on storing fresh fruit and vegetables.

Wholegrains

This may be more surprising given some fad diets swear off wholegrain foods like bread or cereals but regular consumption of wholegrains is linked with healthier hearts, and a lower risk of high blood pressure. This is no surprise to us here at the Heart Foundation – we know high intake of wholegrains is linked to a 30% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Choose wholegrain versions of your regular foods: wholegrain pasta and rice, wholegrain bread, wholegrain or high fibre breakfast cereal like rolled oats, porridge, or untoasted muesli. Remember to watch your portion size. Rice and pasta can be easy to over-serve. At your main meal keep to ½ to 1 cup (cooked) and instead load up on vegetables.

Reduced fat dairy

Combining the vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain choices with reduced fat unflavoured dairy products like milk and yoghurt has been linked to greater reductions in blood pressure than increasing fruit and veg intake alone.

Choose reduced fat unflavoured milk, cheese and yoghurt and look for ways to include these foods as a nourishing snack. Enjoy reduced fat plain yoghurt with a bowl of wholegrain cereal, topped with berries and nuts and you have a recipe for success. Add reduced fat cheese with tomato and avocado to wholegrain crackers for filling morning or afternoon snack.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious. Nuts and seeds provide healthy unsaturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Nuts, seeds and legumes are important parts of healthy eating patterns, so try and include some plain unsalted nuts and seeds in your meals every day. A serve of nuts or seeds is 30g, or a small handful.

An added bonus – regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood, and does not lead to weight gain.

Spice up your life

Including these foods everyday will put you on a path to good health. More of these foods means less of the foods that may be too high in salt or saturated fat. Limiting your salt and saturated fat intake is important for your heart health, and the health of your blood vessels. Choose the above foods and know you’ll be automatically lowering your salt and saturated fat intake. When cooking, use different spices to bring out the flavour of your foods instead of salt.

And when you choose packaged foods, don’t always trust your tastebuds – trust the nutrition information panel instead – as many of the the packaged foods we turn to for quick and convenient meals can contain way too much hidden salt.

What do we take away from this?

Small changes count.

Several small changes can lead to big change, which is good news for our blood vessels and our hearts.

An alarming amount of Americans have high blood pressure, with almost half of the country's population having this diagnosis. Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. And over time, this additional stress on the body can increase a person's risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you are one of the many people who are managing hypertension, know that all hope is not lost if you want to lower your blood pressure. Sure, there are some factors that are completely out of your control when it comes to developing this condition—think genetics and family history. But, there are factors that play into blood pressure health that are completely modifiable. From incorporating more physical activity in your day to refraining from smoking tobacco, there are many things that can be done to lower high blood pressure.

And among the sea of things that people can do to help reduce their blood pressure levels, diet is one that has been shown to be extremely promising. And for over 20 years, following the DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure among those who suffer from hypertension, making it the #1 diet to lower high blood pressure, according to science.

Why Is the DASH Diet the Best Diet to Lower High Blood Pressure?

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a way of eating that, as the name implies, was developed to stop hypertension. Unlike many fad diets that have their time in the spotlight and then fizzle out, the DASH diet has been popular since the early 1990s and isn't stopping any time soon, thanks to the results that have been seen by people following this diet.

If you are going to follow the DASH diet, plant-based foods will make up the bulk of your plate. Foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes will be the shining stars, and ultra-processed foods that contain large amounts of added sugars and salt will only make a rare appearance.

In general, here are some important guidelines to follow when incorporating the DASH diet into your lifestyle:

  • Emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains
  • Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts and vegetable oils
  • Limit poultry, meat and fish intake to no more than two servings per day
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils
  • Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/day

Along with emphasizing and limiting certain foods, the DASH diet suggests focusing on specific nutrients, as well. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are micronutrients that play a role in blood pressure regulation and therefore are highlighted on this diet as well.

The nutrients that this diet provides the body help support a healthy blood pressure in a natural way. From fiber to calcium to the many other micronutrients that this way of eating provides, the DASH diet is certainly an evidence-based approach to managing blood pressure.

Older data suggests that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. And over and over again, results from large, randomized, controlled trials show that the DASH diet reduces blood pressure significantly. Because of this strong evidence, DASH has been a consistent part of national blood pressure and dietary guidelines.

Easy Tips to Follow the DASH Diet

Having high blood pressure is unfortunately very common. But with some changes in eating habits, it is entirely possible to lower blood pressure in a natural way, particularly by following the DASH diet.

When starting to follow the DASH diet, here are some tips to get you going:

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is believed to impact one in three Australian adults, although more so men than women. While rates of hypertension have been stable over the past decade, it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Concerningly, hypertension is also known as a ‘silent disease’. This is because many Australian adults have reported not to have experienced any symptoms, and were unaware that they had hypertension. 1 This is problematic as untreated high blood pressure can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease by weakening blood vessels and influencing clot formation in the arteries.

To help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, there are some simple dietary changes you can make.

Go for low sodium

Sodium (found in salt and other sources) is an essential electrolyte that our body needs for day-to-day functioning, including:

  • maintaining water balance in and out of the cells, and
  • muscle and nerve functioning.

But while we do need sodium in our diets, eating too much has long been identified with increased risk of high blood pressure. The result of consuming a diet high in sodium is water retention. Retaining excess water negatively influences our normal water balance in and out of the cells, causing blood pressure to rise.

The World Health Organization recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 5g of salt (2000mg of sodium) per day. However, due to current food supply practices, people tend to consume a lot more than this.

Making simple changes in your diet to help reduce the amount of sodium you consume is a quick way to help lower blood pressure. Some tips include:

  • Reducing the amount of salt you add to meals by adding flavour through other herbs and spices, such as chilli, ginger, garlic and coriander.
  • Draining and rinsing canned foods to remove as much of the sodium-based liquid as possible.
  • Opting for ‘low-sodium’ versions of food products such as simmer sauces, stocks and pre-made curry bases if you use these.
  • Reducing the amount you eat of smoked and processed meats, which tend to contain a lot of sodium.
  • Reducing your intake of processed snacks like biscuits, chips and crackers.

Opt for high fibre

Vegetables are the foundation to any healthy and wholesome diet. Research has consistently shown the many benefits of consuming a diet rich in vegetables, with one being a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure. Despite the recent push for ketogenic diets, research has shown wholegrain consumption to be cardiovascular protective. 2

Regular consumption of wholegrains has been associated with a lowered risk of high blood pressure, along with a reduction of overall cardiovascular disease risk. Examples of these foods include:

  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Wholegrain bread
  • High fibre breakfast cereals
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Millet.

Keep an eye on potassium

Potassium is another essential electrolyte, which is sometimes forgotten in the presence of sodium. Research has suggested that consuming foods rich in potassium can help to lower blood pressure risk, by helping eliminate sodium through urine. 3 It is worthwhile to note that while there has been some research to suggest the benefits of potassium consumption in reducing blood pressure risk, it is best to seek medical advice before increasing consumption if you have kidney disease or any kidney problems. Natural sources of potassium include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula (rocket)
  • Bananas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms.

While taking on any of these strategies will help to reduce blood pressure over time, it is best to implement them altogether, in combination with a diet rich in wholefoods and regular exercise, and under the guidance of your healthcare professional. Making the effort to reduce salt, opt for high fibre foods, include natural sources of potassium as well as a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, and participate in regular physical activity, is the best long-term strategy to combat high blood pressure.

How to eat to lower blood pressure

Living with high blood pressure is a reality for more than 100 million US adults. There are many ways to control your blood pressure, and adopting a heart-healthy diet is one of the most important steps to take.

Here are some of the best foods you can eat to lower blood pressure, as well as which foods you should avoid.

Foods to eat to lower blood pressure

Americans are known to eat high-sodium diets, and it’s one of the reasons hypertension is so common in the US.

“Extra sodium in your bloodstream can pull water into your blood vessels, which increases the total volume of blood inside your blood vessels, and causes blood pressure to increase,” says Lori Mosca, MD, MPH, PhD, Director of Preventive Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

But eating a balanced diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium can help get your blood pressure under control. In fact, a 2013 review found that adding potassium to high-sodium diets reduces blood pressure substantially in hypertensive patients.

While all nutrients are important, Mosca says potassium is vital in managing blood pressure because it lessens the effects of sodium — the more potassium you take in, the more sodium you lose through urine. Additionally, a high intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium can ease tension in the blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure.

Examples of heart-healthy foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium include:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Fruit like bananas, watermelon, apricots, and berries
  • Seeds, nuts, and beans
  • Avocados and tofu
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Some fatty fish like salmon and mackerel that are high in omega-3 fatty acids

However, for certain patients, especially those with kidney disease, Mosca says too much potassium can be harmful if your kidneys aren’t able to properly remove it. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor in order to make the dietary changes that are right for you to lower blood pressure.

The DASH diet can lower blood pressure

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension , is a healthy eating plan intended to help lower blood pressure without medication.

While you can eat foods from all food groups, you are encouraged to reduce sodium and focus on foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Guidelines include:

  • Limit sodium in your diet to 2,300 milligrams per day (may go as low as 1,500 milligrams per day)
  • Enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Eat beans, seeds, nuts, and whole-grains
  • Include fat-free and low-fat dairy
  • Eat fish, poultry, and lean meats
  • Reduce intake of salt, sugar, red meat, processed foods, saturated fat, trans fat, and alcoholic beverages

Foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure

If you’re living with high blood pressure, Mosca says that — in addition to limiting your intake of sodium — you should minimize sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.

The American Heart Association also recommends cutting back on saturated and trans fats. In general, try to reduce your consumption of pre-packaged, processed, and prepared foods. And watch out for foods that add salt to your diet, including:

  • Pizza
  • Canned soup or other canned goods
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Frozen dinners
  • Salted snacks and nuts
  • Condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and barbecue sauce
  • Some cheeses, seafood, and olives

Insider’s takeaway

Changing your eating habits is one of the best ways to take control of your blood pressure levels and start lowering them. Focus on foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These include many whole fruits and vegetables that you can add to a stir fry, salad, casserole, or just enjoy plain.

Most importantly, avoid prepackaged and processed foods that are loaded with sodium like cold cuts, frozen pizza, and condiments. Pair a healthy diet with regular exercise and you should see an improvement in blood pressure levels.

How to eat to lower blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension , is extremely common, affecting 47% of American adults. That’s a problem since people with high blood pressure are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other health conditions.

Controlling hypertension isn’t super complicated, however. One way to do it is through a healthy diet.

“We have identified several factors in the diet that are associated with lowering blood pressure for most people, making nutrition an important part of treating high blood pressure,” says Samantha Cochrane, LDN, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Here’s a list of foods to eat and avoid for high blood pressure, as well as a detailed eating plan for the DASH diet — considered to be a great diet to manage blood pressure.

What foods to avoid with high blood pressure?

A main focus of high blood pressure diets is avoiding foods with a lot of salt and saturated fats, says Janeen C. Miller, MS, wellness coordinator with Providence St. Joseph Hospital. These include processed and packaged foods:

  • Chips
  • Commercially-prepared baked goods
  • Canned soups
  • Frozen entrees
  • Salted nuts
  • Fried foods
  • Deli meats, including smoked meats and fish
  • Cheese and full-fat dairy
  • Bacon and other fatty cuts of meat
  • Butter

Salt or sodium intake is directly linked to high blood pressure, while saturated fats raise cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease and can compound the risks of high blood pressure.

All adults should limit their sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day and people with high blood pressure should aim for no more than 1,500 mg.

What foods lower blood pressure?

Heart-healthy foods are those that are low in sodium and saturated fats, and rich in fiber and essential nutrients, including potassium, which is linked to lower blood pressure.

If you’re following a high blood pressure diet, most of your food should be:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean proteins like white fish, chicken, and turkey breast
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • 4-5 cups of popcorn (without salt or butter)
  • ¼ cup of unsalted nuts
  • ½ cup of berries
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt

Cochrane suggests experimenting with new foods and good combinations to find those that are most enjoyable for you.

What is DASH?

One of the most popular diets for high blood pressure is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet.

Research has found that people following the DASH diet can lower their blood pressure within two weeks and ultimately lower their systolic blood pressure by 8-14 points, reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease.

Medical term: Systolic blood pressure is the “top” number in your reading that measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

How to follow the DASH diet

The DASH diet plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while minimizing fatty, sweetened, and processed foods.

On the DASH diet, “there are not necessarily good or bad foods, but foods you want to include more of, more often,” says Cochrane.

A typical day on the DASH diet includes:

  • 5 servings of vegetables
  • 5 servings of fruit
  • 7 servings of carbohydrates, emphasizing whole grains
  • 2 servings of low-fat dairy
  • 2 or fewer servings of low-fat meat
  • 2 servings of fat or oil

In addition, people on the DASH diet can have 4-5 servings of nuts each week, and a maximum of five servings of sweets each week.

Tips for following a high blood pressure diet

Drastically changing your diet can be challenging, so Cochrane recommends starting slowly.

“If the plan is overwhelming, don’t try to do it all at once,” she says. Below are a few tips to start:

  • Add a single serving of a fruit or vegetable with every meal or replace a pre-packaged snack with a fresh piece of fruit like an apple or orange.
  • Stop using table salt as part of an effort to reduce sodium intake. Instead, opt for spices and fresh herbs. or work with a dietician to help you understand your eating patterns and shift them to a healthier approach.

Rather than thinking of the diet as a restriction, Cochrane says to think of it as a way to give your body the best fuel possible. You don’t need to be perfect, and you can still indulge in the occasional sweet or salty treat.

“A good goal to strive for is to eat heart-healthy about 80% of the time,” Miller says.

Insider’s takeaway

High blood pressure contributes to more than half a million deaths in the US each year.

Following a diet that is low in sodium and saturated fats, and rich in whole, unprocessed foods, like the DASH diet, can help you lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of premature death.

Moreover, following a diet like the DASH diet is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, which also includes managing your stress, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

“Consuming healthy, low-sodium, low-saturated-fat foods will improve blood pressure and, of course, overall health,” says Miller.

How to eat to lower blood pressure

Consistent high blood pressure — also known as hypertension — can cause damage to your blood vessels and have long-term impacts on your health. Fortunately, you can take action to manage your high blood pressure, with and without medication. Remedies include:

  • Managing your weight
  • Minimizing your salt intake
  • Developing positive fitness habits

One way to lower your blood pressure quickly is through the food you eat. Avoiding caffeine, saturated fat, and cholesterol and seeking out foods rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy are effective ways to manage hypertension.

High blood pressure is high pressure within the arteries, which are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Hypertension is a common health issue that can lead to an increased chance of stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, vision problems, memory issues, and sexual health concerns.

Foods that lower blood pressure

A healthy and balanced diet is a great way to prevent and manage high blood pressure — especially in its early stages. For chronic high blood pressure, diet is shown to be especially effective when used with medication prescribed by your doctor. Foods that help you lower your blood pressure include:

Fish

Research shows that omega-3 fats have a noticeable impact on heart health by reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure. Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fats, making them an essential food for managing blood pressure.

Seeds, nuts, and legumes

Some seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, may provide benefits for managing hypertension. Pumpkin seeds are rich in amino acids, potassium, and magnesium, all of which can contribute to lowering blood pressure.

Studies show that healthful and nutritious nuts, such as pistachios, are helpful for managing high blood pressure and supporting heart health. Nuts, which are high in potassium, are especially effective in helping to lower high blood pressure.

Along with nutrient-rich beans and legumes, seeds and nuts are excellent foods to incorporate into your diet, either through snacks or other means.

Whole grain carbohydrates

Research shows that, when managing hypertension, it is best to eat carbohydrate-rich foods made from whole grains rather than refined white flour. Therefore, when choosing carbohydrates such as breads and pastas, look for whole-grain or multigrain options to help lower your blood pressure.

Fruits and vegetables

It is important to trade sugary and salty snacks for vegetables and fruits when managing high blood pressure. Even choosing a piece of fruit over drinking fruit juice can have lasting benefits.

Studies show that the nutrients found in citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, can have a significant impact on lowering blood pressure. However, grapefruit can interfere with heart medication, so it is important to talk to your doctor before adding this particular citrus to your diet. Antioxidant-rich berries have also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure.

For a more savory addition to your diet, celery, carrots, and leafy greens have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing blood pressure.

Unsaturated fats

Using healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil, soybean oil, or safflower oil is an important part of a diet meant to manage high blood pressure.

Risks and outlook

Other ways to promote lower blood pressure include choosing fresh foods over processed foods and minimizing sodium (salt). If you are overweight, decrease your caloric intake to trim extra weight and lower your blood pressure. You might also consider keeping a food journal or tracking your foods with an app.

While certain foods can help lower blood pressure, they cannot replace prescription medications. You should talk to your doctor or a dietitian to determine the right diet for you.

How to eat to lower blood pressure

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Advances in Nutrition: “Food Groups and Risk of Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.”

American Journal of Hypertension: “Effect of Dietary Pulses on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Feeding Trials.”

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: “The effects of pumpkin seed oil supplementation on arterial hemodynamics, stiffness and cardiac autonomic function in postmenopausal women.”

Current Hypertension Reports: “Dietary Approaches to Prevent Hypertension.”

Current Hypertension Reports: “Dietary Patterns and Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Beating high blood pressure with food.”

InformedHealth.org: “High blood pressure: Lowering blood pressure without medication.”

Journal of Clinical & Experimental Cardiology: “Role of Dietary Components in Modulating Hypertension.”

Nutrients: “Potential Factors Influencing the Effects of Anthocyanins on Blood Pressure Regulation in Humans: A Review.”

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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.

Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.

The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.

If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.

Focus on these foods and actions to lower high blood pressure today

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A diagnosis of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is common, though still scary. Nearly one in seven people worldwide has it, including one in every three adults in the United States. You have high blood pressure if either the top or bottom number (or both) in a blood pressure reading is higher than 130/80 mm Hg.

The good news: High blood pressure is both preventable and controllable, often with just lifestyle changes. And doing so diligently is a good idea since hypertension can lead to further heart disease. With high blood pressure, the force exerted on the inner walls of your arteries is persistently high, which causes the left ventricle of your heart to increase its effort in pumping blood through your system. Over time, this can cause stroke, heart attack, chest pain, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction and even vision troubles.

Following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (known as the DASH Diet) has helped thousands of people reduce or eliminate the need for hypertensive drugs. What follows is a breakdown of the foods and actions that have the most impact on your blood pressure.

What to Eat to Help Lower High Blood Pressure

In terms of nutrients, minerals — namely sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium — play the main role in the regulation of body fluids, cardiac output and blood pressure. Because of the way most people eat, we often need more of some of these minerals while limiting others. To help lower blood pressure, focus on getting more potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Foods High in Potassium

Dietary potassium and blood pressure are inversely related. This mineral can blunt the impact of sodium and most Americans don’t get close to the recommended intake of 4,700 milligrams per day. These are especially good choices:

  • Fruits:avocados, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, oranges, pomegranate, dried fruits, such as dates, prunes, and raisins, and also orange juice and grapefruit juice
  • Vegetables: butternut squash, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, both cooked and raw dark greens, such as spinach and kale, and tomato juice.
  • Beans: black beans, edamame, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans
  • Fish: cod, halibut, trout, tuna

Foods High in Calcium

Men and women with higher calcium levels have a lower risk of stroke. An intake of 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended for people with hypertension from a variety of sources:

  • Dairy: Research shows that the peptides in fermented dairy, such as yogurt, kefir and sour cream may be most beneficial. Other high-potassium dairy choices are milk, whey protein and Parmesan cheese
  • Canned seafood: canned salmon and sardines
  • Beans: black beans, edamame (soybeans), chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans
  • Seeds and nuts: almonds, chia seeds, celery seed, poppy seeds, sesame seeds

Foods High in Magnesium

Magnesium is a potent inhibitor of the contraction of blood vessels and plays a role in lowering blood pressure. Most adults don’t get the recommended 300 to 400 milligrams of magnesium needed each day. Get it from:

  • Leafy Greens: collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens
  • Beans: black beans, edamame (soybeans), chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans
  • Whole grains: barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, whole wheat
  • Seeds and nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Fish: halibut, mackerel, salmon

Foods to Reduce When You Have High Blood Pressure

  • Foods high in sodium: Several intervention studies have shown that sodium reduction — with or without weight loss — can significantly reduce hypertension. Start by cutting back on restaurant meals, including takeout and fast food, as well as packaged meal helpers/starters and packaged snacks. For people diagnosed with high blood pressure, try to limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.
  • Foods high in trans fat: This type of artificial fat is so damaging that it has been banned by the FDA due to multiple studies showing its link to heart disease, inflammation, higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Despite the ban, foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can list 0 grams trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label. While this amount is small, it can add up quickly. Trans fats exist mostly in packaged baked goods, some margarine and vegetable shortenings, some microwave popcorns, fried fast food, non-dairy creamers, and refrigerated doughs and biscuits. If a product contains “partially hydrogenated oil” that’s a good indication it has trans fats.

Supplements That Can Help with High Blood Pressure

There are several supplements that could help lower blood pressure, especially when combined with increasing and limiting the foods listed above. Always consult your doctor before starting a new supplement.

  • Multivitamin with minerals: A good quality multivitamin that includes minerals and is designed for your gender and age group will often include many of the nutrients that support better blood pressure, including 100% of the Daily Value of B vitamins, vitamin D3, and vitamin C, and partial percentages of the Daily Value of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Magnesium and potassium are purposely kept lower to avoid drug-nutrient interactions and calcium can’t be included at 100% in a multivitamin because it would simply be too large to swallow. For these reasons, it’s best to combine a multivitamin with eating more potassium-, calcium- and magnesium-rich foods.
  • Fish oil: The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to be effective at improving heart-related conditions, including hypertension. The Reference Daily Intake for combined EPA and DHA is 250 to 500 milligrams. Typically, a 1,000-milligram fish oil supplement (2 capsules) will provide 300 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA.
  • Probiotic: Particularly for those who don’t consistently eat fermented dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir, a multi-strain probiotic taken for 8 weeks or longer could be beneficial at lowering blood pressure.

Have High Blood Pressure? Do This First.

If you are overweight, aim to lose 15 to 20 pounds. Research shows this will have the biggest health impact and could reduce blood pressure by up to 20 mm Hg. If you are in a normal weight range, the most impactful thing you can do is eat fewer foods high in sodium and trans fat (see above) while eating more foods high in potassium. Eating this way could reduce blood pressure by 15 to 20 mm Hg.

What Else to Know About High Blood Pressure

There are many things that affect your blood pressure beyond what’s on your plate. Combine the above recommended changes to your diet with the following in mind: