High blood pressure is a very common problem in America, with one in three adults having the condition. In addition to this, it’s reported that 28% of people don't even realise they have high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as kidney and eye damage, and therefore isn’t something to ignore.
However, the good news is that changes to your diet and lifestyle are very effective in treating this condition easily and simply.
#1 Reduce sodium intake
Current recommendations encourage eating less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day. This is the same as 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt per day.
Eating a diet lower in sodium may help prevent blood pressure from rising further, and can also help blood pressure medicines to work more effectively.
How to reduce sodium in your diet:
- Eat whole fresh foods as much as possible.
- Look out for “no added salt,” “low salt,” or “reduced salt” products.
- Take care with canned vegetables, and look for those stating, "no added salt," or rinse veg before eating to remove most of the sodium.
- Opt for fresh meats and fish, rather than canned or processed versions.
- Cook food without adding salt, and season with herbs, spices, and citrus fruits instead.
- Reduce your intake of frozen dinners, pizza, stock cubes, canned soups, salad dressings, and take away food.
- Watch out for high sodium content in breakfast cereal and bread.
#2 Be more physically active
Taking more physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to control your blood pressure. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, and maintain a healthy weight.
You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity most days of the week. This can include anything from brisk walking, to cycling, or gardening.
Just choose something that gets you moving more than normal, and then build the intensity gradually. Check out this 12-week step-by-step walking program.
#3 Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. This is especially true if you carry most of your weight around the waist area.
However, losing as little as 5-10% of your starting weight will help to reduce your blood pressure. Aim for sensible weight loss of 0.5-1kg each week for best results.
#4 Eat a sensible diet
- Limit your meat intake to 6 ounces per day (two servings). Three to four ounces is about the size of a deck of cards.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables - aim to eat at least five portions per day. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and juiced are fine. However, if using canned vegetables, choose a low salt variety.
- Include two vegetarian-style meals each week, replacing meat with beans, or lentils etc.
- Eat 1-2 portions of oily fish each week, for example salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout. Fresh, frozen or canned are fine, but avoid fish canned in brine.
- Use a variety of fruit as dessert, and snack on low fat foods, and raw vegetables.
A diet high in potassium containing foods is also known to be beneficial to heart health.
Dietary potassium is found in many foods, but particularly:
- Avocado, mushrooms, broccoli, root vegetables, beans and peas.
- Bananas, kiwi, grapes, dried fruits, oranges, orange juice, and melons.
- Unsalted mixed nuts.
- Reduced fat milk and yogurt.
- Lean meat and fish.
Try to include more of these foods in your daily diet.
#5 Drink alcohol moderately
Drinking too much alcohol will increase your blood pressure. So, if you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink per day for women, and no more than two drinks per day for men.
Published On: October 31, 2008