Today roughly 65 million Americans have hypertension. As we've been discussing recently, if left untreated this can lead to a number of problems including kidney damage, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, thankfully you can do something about it. Here are some of the nutrients and foods you can add to your diet to help lower your blood pressure:
Researchers at the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey concluded that a diet with 8.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day could lower blood pressure by 7.2/2.8 mmHg (systolic/diastolic) in people already diagnosed with high blood pressured.
Foods rich in potassium are fruit (such as bananas), vegetables, potatoes, pulses, tofu, nuts, seeds, milk, fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, turkey and bread. If you can, try to avoid boiling your potatoes and vegetables, as potassium leaches out into the water during cooking.
Remember, you should be able to get enough potassium by eating a healthy diet - you don't need to opt for dietary supplements to help lower your blood pressure.
It's thought that populations with low calcium intakes have higher rates of hypertension. However, it hasn't been proven that taking calcium tablets will prevent high blood pressure. Instead, try to get the recommended 2-3 servings of calcium-containing foods per day.
Good sources include milk, yogurt and cheese. Calcium fortified soy products are acceptable too. You can also get calcium from soft bones in canned fish, some bread, pulses, green vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
It is also thought that diets low in magnesium could lead to a rise in blood pressure. Again if you are eating a healthy diet you should be getting enough to help prevent high blood pressure without resorting to a supplement.
Magnesium can be found in wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, dry peas and beans.
4. Fish oils
Studies have indicated that fish oils (omega-3s) may help to lower blood pressure slightly. For overall good health, try to include at least two servings of fish per week (one of which should be fatty fish - salmon, mackerel, and herring). In addition to this you could also include vegetable oils (soybean, canola, walnut, and flaxseed), or walnuts and flaxseed in their whole from.
Flaxseeds are also thought to aid blood pressure lowering. If you want to add more to your diet look out for breads, cereals and baked goods containing them. You could also add flaxseed to your home baking and cooking. Here are a few suggestions:
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed onto cereal, yogurt, and salads.
- Add ground flaxseeds to any recipe when a nutty flavor is acceptable.
- Ground flaxseeds can be used as a substitute for eggs - 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, plus 3 tablespoons water is equal to 1 egg.
- Or substitute 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds for 1 tablespoon butter, shortening, or vegetable oil.
- Use flaxseed oil rather than other oils.
It has been suggested that garlic may be beneficial in helping to lower blood pressure. However, results have been rather inconsistent, with many of the studies being relatively short-term, and therefore we are currently unsure of how useful garlic is for lowering blood pressure.
If you do decide to take garlic, the American Dietetic Association suggest you need to be taking 600 - 900mg per day - this is equivalent to about 1 fresh clove.
A note of caution: if you are taking garlic supplements and medication such as aspirin or warfarin at the same time, be aware that garlic supplements may further thin your blood - so it's a good idea to check with your doctor first.