About 76 million, or one-third of, American adults suffer from the condition known as high blood pressure. You’ve most likely heard the term, or at least had your arm squeezed as a test for it in the doctor’s office. (Fun fact: This is called a sphygmomanometer, and it cuts off the blood flow in your arm.)
As the name implies, high blood pressure is when the blood that pumps through your body is pushing against your blood vessels at too high of a force. It can come from an underlying condition like sleep apnea or kidney disease, or the condition can be unknown, but it is most likely related to obesity, high salt intake or a sedentary lifestyle.
The condition turns you into a “walking time bomb, liable to suffer a heart attack or stroke,” Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., and LDN, wrote in her book Blood Pressure Down. She calls high blood pressure a “silent killer,” which is accurate—400,000 deaths occur annually from the disease.
The good news is that you don’t need drugs or medications to end high blood pressure, all you need to do is adjust your lifestyle. By doing so, not only will you reduce your high blood pressure, but you might reverse the effects it took on your blood vessels, heart and other parts of the body. To naturally reduce your blood pressure, losing weight is a key factor. To do so, you should be active for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. In tandem with that, you should also change your diet. Science shows that losing just a few pounds can considerably impact your blood pressure.
Here are a few dietary guidelines by Brill for you to keep in mind if you are at risk or have high blood pressure. The changes are simple, but the effects could be life-saving.
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Cut down on salt. Unfortunately, many Americans consume too much salt, which is embedded in our processed food culture and is directly linked to risk of stroke. Americans are recommended to only eat about 1,500 milligrams of salt a day, but typically most eat over 4,000 milligrams. By paying attention to food labels, cooking your own meals at home, or even ordering low-salt meals at a restaurant, you can cut down on your own intake.
Go bananas for bananas. Potassium naturally lowers blood pressure in the body. These inexpensive and portable fruits can help regulate your blood pressure. Potassium is also beneficial for having strong bones. It’s a good thing that bananas make for a perfect breakfast.
Eat more spinach. We’ve heard it time and time again, but spinach really is great for you. Jam-packed with potassium and magnesium, spinach is a key player in reducing your blood pressure. Magnesium, in particular, cuts your risk of heart attacks in half. So yes, you might want to throw some in with your morning smoothie blend.
Have some yogurt. This dairy product is incredibly good for you, not just for its high levels of potassium and its gut-friendly bacteria, but for its calcium. Calcium, which is heralded by parents to get their kids to drink their glasses of milk, is also useful in controlling blood pressure. While Greek yogurt is healthy in itself, it doesn’t have as much calcium as plain yogurt. Be on the lookout for yogurt that’s fortified with vitamin D, which helps with inflammation and heart disease risk. Yogurt isn’t just for midday snacks or breakfasts on the go; they can be decorated with herbs for veggie dips, used in pancake mix or even in your oatmeal.
Drink red wine. Dating back to the ancient Greeks in 2200 B.C., wine is one of the oldest medicines still around. Red wine, in particular, contains ethanol, or alcohol, and polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Both have been found to help the arteries relax, which results in a drop in blood pressure. When it comes to red wine helping with your blood pressure, it boils down to quantity and pattern. Men should drink no more than two five ounce glasses a day, and women should drink no more than one, according to the American Heart Association.
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