The most important eating habit in high blood pressure – Eat this, not that

High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because many people are unaware they have this potentially fatal condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of adults in the United States — approximately 116 million Americans — have high blood pressure. Even if high blood pressure has no obvious signs or symptoms, it can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure, or high blood pressure, occurs when you have increased strength or blood pressure pressing against the walls of your arteries. If the pressure on the walls of the arteries continues, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease.

A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic pressure. An example of a healthy level would be 110/70. Normal blood pressure is a systolic value of up to 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic value of up to 80 mm Hg. Hypertension is defined as systolic from 140 mm Hg and diastolic from 90 mm Hg.

In the case of prevention or Lowering Your Blood Pressure Your first step should be to eat a healthy diet that consists primarily of plant-based foods to increase the potassium in your meals and snacks.

Including potassium-rich foods in your diet is the number one eating habit for high blood pressure

Potassium is the mineral that can help neutralize sodium in your diet and works in myriad other ways to moderate blood pressure. One of the main reasons high blood pressure rates are so high in the US is that we are high in sodium and low in potassium. The ratio between sodium and potassium is believed to be crucial in controlling your pressure.

A plant-rich diet that’s high in potassium has the added benefit of supporting your blood pressure by helping you lose weight, which is another powerful way to lower blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood pressure can drop by about 1 mm Hg for every pound you lose.

How to add more potassium-rich foods to your diet

potassium foods
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To increase potassium in your meals and snacks, a proven way to meet the recommended daily potassium intake is to follow the number of servings of produce, grains, and low-fat or non-fat dairy that are part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop hypertension) provides three times more potassium than the average American diet.

A study published in Journal of the American Heart Association reported that following the DASH diet is the most effective non-pharmaceutical approach to lowering blood pressure. Following the DASH diet resulted in a reduction in systolic blood pressure of about 7 mmHg and a 3.5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.

Here are the major food groups and serving numbers recommended on the DASH diet to support the potassium in your diet.

  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day. A serving is 1 cup raw green leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup chopped raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup vegetable juice.
  • Fruit: 4 to 5 servings a day. A serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
  • grains: 6 to 8 servings a day. A serving is one slice of bread, one ounce of dry granola, or 1/2 cup of cooked granola, rice, or pasta.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings a day. A serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week. A serving is 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked legumes (dried beans or peas).

How much potassium is enough?

The National Institutes of Health recommend that women should get 2,600 milligrams and men 3,400 milligrams of potassium daily. Most of us fall short of this daily intake target and it is considered a nutrient of public health concern. Recent national data shows that men get about 3,000 milligrams per day on average, while women get about 2,300 milligrams per day.

Increasing the amount of potassium in a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to control your blood pressure. A simple Google search for DASH diet menus provides plenty of inspiration to get started.

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD

Julie Upton is an award-winning nutritionist and communications specialist who has written thousands of articles for national media outlets including The New York Times, US News & World Report and USA Today. Continue reading

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