High blood pressure also called hypertension is a condition of the body in which blood moves through arteries at a higher pressure than normal. There are many causes of high blood pressure. The risk increases as a person becomes older because with growing age the blood vessels become less flexible. People who have a family history with hypertension have a significantly higher risk of developing this problem. People having obesity are more likely to develop high blood pressure. After the age of 50 years, a woman’s relative risk of hypertension increases. Lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and a poor diet containing saturated fats and trans-fats are also responsible for hypertension. Chronic mental stress, diabetes, pregnancy, and sleep apnea can also lead to high blood pressure. The condition puts you at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, heart attack, and kidney failure.
There are a few foods which can help reduce blood pressure along with lifestyle changes.
Foods to be incorporated in the daily diet include:
Vegetables: Collard greens, spinach, beetroot, turnip greens, kale, and romaine lettuce are rich in potassium. Potassium helps kidneys get rid of more sodium through urine. Thus, these veggies, in turn, lower blood pressure. However, do not rely on canned vegetable because they often have added sodium. Beetroot is also helpful in lowering blood pressure because of its high nitric oxide content which helps open blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Garlic also contains good amount of nitric oxide which may widen the arteries to reduce blood pressure.
Fruits: Banana is packed with potassium. It will help in eliminating sodium from the body. Berries, especially blueberries are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids. Also, raspberries and strawberries contain flavonoids. These compounds might prevent hypertension and help lower blood pressure. Pomegranate is also a healthy addition to your diet to help lower blood pressure.
Low-fat dairy products: Skim milk and low-fat yogurt are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They are low in fat. These properties help in lowering blood pressure. Try incorporating heart-healthy foods like granola and fruits into low-fat yogurt. Avoid adding sugar to increase the benefits. Three servings of low-fat dairy products are beneficial to reduce blood pressure.
Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and fish with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and lower triglycerides and blood pressure. These fish contain a hormone-like vitamin which can help reduce blood pressure. To reap the benefits, do not fry them.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts such as pistachios and almonds are included in a moderate-fat diet. They are a healthy addition to reduce blood pressure. One serving of pistachios daily, can reduce blood vessels tightening and heart rate and thus, lower blood pressure. Almonds also when added to a healthy diet can help influence lower blood pressure levels. Cashews, hazelnuts and other tree nuts can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Unsalted seeds such as, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are high in potassium, magnesium and other minerals that can effectively reduce blood pressure. These seeds are high in antioxidants also which help lower heart disease risk as well.
Olive oil: Olive oil contains polyphenols and healthy fats. Polyphenols may fight inflammation which can help lower blood pressure.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal is high-fibre and low-sodium food. Eating a packed half-cup of rolled oats or oat bran daily in breakfast can lower blood pressure.
Dark chocolate: Eating a small chunk of dark chocolate every day can help lower blood pressure. The unsweetened chocolate contains heart-healthy benefits of flavonoids compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels.
Besides incorporating these foods, maintain a healthy lifestyle. Do regular exercise. Exercise is most effective when it is regular. Exercising at weekends only will be much less effective. Achieve healthy weight with a combination of workout and healthy diet. Indulge in relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and guided breathing. Have a quality sleep at least for seven hours.
Foods to be avoided:
Caffeine: Caffeine can cause a short but dramatic increase in blood pressure. So avoid consuming it.
Salt: If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. So, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be. Cut back on your salt intake and incorporate flavourful herbs and spices such as basil, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary and more in your diet.
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure. It can harm the liver and heart.
Sugary foods: Limit foods with lots of sugar like cakes, cookies, sodas, sugary processed fruit juices, candy bars, soft drinks, ice creams, etc.
With these dos and don’ts, it is important to consult your doctor. Just like brushing your teeth, taking your medicine can become a part of your daily routine.