High blood pressure can be a pretty big deal, so you should take care to consider how what you’re eating and how you’re living may be impacting that number on the pressure cuff. With thoughtful, meaningful changes, you can bring that number back into the healthy range.
High blood pressure-also called hypertension- is a leading contributor for cardiovascular disease. Given that cardiovascular disease (also commonly referred to as heart disease) is the leading cause of death for both men and women living in the United States, remedying the nutrition and exercise patterns of the American public is crucial to combating a very real and imminent health threat.
The Common Causes of High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure rises with expanding waistlines, poor diet, and lack of exercise. As Americans have grown heavier, blood pressure has risen. High blood pressure exerts excessive force on the arterial wall, creating microtrauma and scar tissue, where plaque may gather and accumulate over time. This accumulation of plaque in the artery further compromises blood flow and reduces the delivery of oxygen to working cells and tissues.
Of foremost importance is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Although high blood pressure does tend to track through family lines, it’s thought that much of the familial effect may be attributed to shared habits- diet and exercise patterns that affect waistlines and metabolic profiles.
The good news? That means your fate isn’t written in stone: the things you do make a difference- a big difference! Talk to your healthcare team about tips you should take to reverse your numbers. Many doctors and dietitians advocate for the DASH diet, which focuses on fruits and vegetables and limits sodium and fat.
Even if your doctor doesn’t put you on a DASH-style plan, it’s always a good idea to make at least half of each meal a fruit or a vegetable- and no, potatoes, corn, or other starchy vegetables don’t count. Non-starchy vegetables (think green) can be added to pasta sauce or stir-fries for quick, healthy meals that don’t skimp on flavor. As for salt, go easy on prepared sauces, which can be high in sodium. Choose canned tomatoes and tomato sauces with no added salt, and favor fresh or dried herbs, onions, and garlic to add flavor to dishes.
Remember that sodium lurks in many common foods. Even if you’re not emotionally attached to the salt shaker, you’re likely consuming more than enough sodium. About 75% of the sodium we consume is in processed foods and restaurant dishes. While you don’t have to throw out everything in your pantry, you should read labels and familiarize yourself with places that you might be getting extra sodium- soups, canned foods, salad dressings, sauces, condiments, and frozen foods are common culprits.