All this month, we’re looking at heart-healthy ways to eat. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re concerned about high cholesterol , inflammation or you just want a list of which foods you should try. We’re wrapping up American Heart Month by looking at how to eat to help lower high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Basics
Blood pressure is considered high (called hypertension) when your reading is greater than 140 mm/Hg over 90. Prehypertension is considered readings of 120 – 139 over 80 – 89. Normal readings are less than 120 mm/Hg over less than 80.
Why We Care About High Blood Pressure
HBP can lead to a whole host of problems, including stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis and more. Its nickname is “the Silent Killer” because it doesn’t have any symptoms of its own (except in extreme cases). For people who do not get their blood pressure checked regularly, the first sign of trouble can be something as serious as a heart attack or stroke.
How To Lower HBP
Reduce your sodium intake
The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium daily from all sources – both what we add and what’s present in the food product itself. To determine how much sodium you take in during a day, measure how much you shake onto your food. Since table salt is about 40% sodium, use this handy chart:
- ¼ teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
- ½ teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
- ¾ teaspoon salt = 1,800 mg sodium
- 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
Then add the sodium content from all of the processed food you eat. You’ll find that number on the label in the Nutrient Facts. See how easy it is eat too much sodium?
You can do several things to reduce your sodium intake:
- Take the salt shaker off the table. Your taste buds will adjust, I promise.
- When cooking, replace salt with lemon juice, garlic, fresh herbs & spices.
- Many packaged foods contain loads of salt, especially soups/broths, frozen meals, canned vegetables. Choose low-sodium products.
Maintain an adequate potassium intake
Potassium works to help keep the water balance between the cells and the body fluids normal. It’s essential for making sure that your muscles (including your heart) contract properly. Potassium deficiency can be caused by inadequate intake or inadequate retention (especially if you’re on a diuretic medication).
To help maintain an adequate potassium level, eat foods such as fresh bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit (do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you’re taking any cardiac medication), oranges, honeydew melon, beets, leafy greens (speak with your doctor first if you’re on a blood thinner), peas, tomatoes; dried beans and peas.
Losing weight, even as little as 5 – 10 pounds, can help lower blood pressure. One of the most effective actions to take is to write down everything you eat and drink. This will illuminate where too many wasteful calories are coming from (like sugary beverages, high-fat snacks, etc); where you might be getting too much sodium (packaged foods, how much you add when you sit down to eat); and if you’re getting enough vegetables and fruits. Also keep track of the amount of water you drink.
The Coming Weeks
Making Sense of the Headlines