Originally posted on July 26, 2017
What is the definition of high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels) which carry the blood throughout the body.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to the pressure in your arteries that is above the normal range.
High blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage that leads to many serious conditions. The American Heart Association reports that high blood pressure over time often leads to:
- Vision Loss
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Microvascular disease (MVD)
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
- Heart Attack/Failure
- Kidney Disease/Failure
Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it produces no symptoms and can go unnoticed and untreated for years. According to the CDC, at least 108 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and only 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have their condition under control. In 2018, high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for me than 494,873 people in the US.
While many risk factors for high blood pressure are out of your control, such as age, family history, gender, and race, there are factors within your control, such as exercise and diet. A diet especially rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber, and low in sodium can help control high blood pressure.
Here are 12 foods that can help you fight hypertension.
1. Leafy green vegetables
Potassium helps your kidneys get rid of more sodium through urine. This, in turn, lowers your blood pressure.
Leafy greens vegetables include:
- collard greens
- beet greens
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
Be wary of canned vegetables as they often add sodium, but frozen vegetables are fine as they contain as many nutrients as fresh vegetables.
Consider blending these veggies in a smoothie with bananas and nut milk for a healthy, daily, sweet green juice.
Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids. Researchers conducted a large study with more than 34,000 people with hypertension.
They found that those with the highest intake of anthocyanins — mainly from blueberries and strawberries — had an 8 percent reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, compared to those with a low anthocyanin intake.
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are easy to add to your diet. You can put them on your cereal or granola in the morning, or keep frozen berries on hand for a quick and healthy snack or dessert.
Beets are high in nitric oxide, which can help open your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that the nitrates in beetroot juice lowered research participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours.
You can juice your own beets or simply cook and eat the whole root. Beetroot is delicious when roasted or added to stir-fries and stews. You can also bake them into chips. Be careful when handling beets — the juice can stain your hands and clothes.
4. Skim milk and yogurt
While we generally recommend nut milk over dairy, skim milk is an excellent source of calcium and is low in fat. Calcium and low/no fat are both important for lowering blood pressure.
If you don’t like milk, low-fat yogurt or kefir may be right for you. According to the American Heart Association, women who ate 5 or more servings of yogurt a week experienced a 20% reduction in their risk of developing high blood pressure.
Try incorporating granola, almond slivers, and fruits into your yogurt for extra heart-healthy benefits. When buying yogurt, be sure to check for added sugar. The lower the sugar quantity per serving, the better.
Oatmeal fits the bill for a high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sodium way to lower your blood pressure. Eating oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to fuel up for the day.
Overnight oats are a popular breakfast option. To make them, soak 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 1/2 cup of nut milk in a jar. In the morning, stir and add berries, granola, and cinnamon to taste.
Eating foods that are rich in potassium is better than taking supplements. According to the American Heart Association, potassium reduces the effects of sodium and alleviates tension in the walls of the blood vessels.
If you have kidney disease, you should speak to your doctor about the best level of potassium you should be consuming. Too much potassium can be harmful.
Slice a banana into your cereal or oatmeal for a potassium-rich addition. You can also take one to go along with a boiled egg for a quick breakfast or snack.
7. Salmon, mackerel, and fish with omega-3s
Oily sea fish are especially great sources of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.
One benefit of preparing fish is that it’s easy to flavor and cook. To try it, place a fillet of salmon in parchment paper and season with herbs, lemon, and olive oil. Bake the fish in a preheated oven at 450°F for 12-15 minutes.
Unsalted seeds are high in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals are known to reduce blood pressure. Enjoy a cup of sunflower, pumpkin, or squash seeds as a snack between meals.
9. Garlic and herbs
One study notes that garlic can help reduce hypertension by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps promote vasodilation, or the widening of arteries, to reduce blood pressure.
Incorporating flavorful herbs and spices into your daily diet can also help you cut back on your salt intake. Examples of herbs and spices you can add include basil, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and more.
10. Dark chocolate
A 2015 study published in the medical journal Heart found that eating dark chocolate is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study suggests that up to 100 grams per day of dark chocolate may be associated with a lower risk of CVD.
Dark chocolate contains more than 60 percent cocoa solids and has less sugar than regular chocolate. You can add dark chocolate to yogurt or eat it with fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, as a healthy dessert.
Pistachios are a healthy way to decrease blood pressure by reducing peripheral vascular resistance, or blood vessel tightening, and heart rate. Another study found that a diet with one serving of pistachios a day helps reduce blood pressure.
You can incorporate pistachios into your diet by adding them to crusts, pesto sauces, and salads, or by eating them plain as a snack.
Pomegranates are a healthy fruit that you can enjoy raw or as a juice. One study from Pharmacological Research concluded that drinking a cup of pomegranate juice once a day for four weeks helps lower blood pressure over the short term.
Pomegranate juice is tasty with a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check the sugar content in store-bought juices, as the added sugars can negate the health benefits.
13. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, including grapefruit, oranges, and lemons, may have powerful blood-pressure-lowering effects. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may help keep your heart healthy by reducing heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.
Studies have also shown drinking orange and grapefruit juice may help reduce blood pressure. Yet, grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with common blood-pressure-lowering medications, so consult your healthcare provider before adding this fruit to your diet.