Your blood pressure is one of the most important numbers to know about your health.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can be dangerous to your body and cause organ damage.
What is blood pressure? Your blood pressure is basically the pressure of your blood as it pushes against the walls of your arteries. These carry blood from your heart to other areas of your body.
Having high blood pressure puts you at an increased risk of health conditions, so it’s important to monitor your numbers regularly and follow healthy lifestyle and diet tips to lower your blood pressure.
What follows is important information about blood pressure and how you can keep your numbers at a healthy level.
How Is Blood Pressure Measured?
There are two blood pressure number readings. These are:
- Systolic blood pressure. This number is the measurement of the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure inside your arteries when your heart rests between heartbeats.
A healthy, normal blood pressure has a systolic measurement of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic measurement that’s lower than 80 mm Hg.
Blood pressure is read with the systolic number appearing first and then the diastolic number, so it might be read as 120 over 80 or 120/80.
What Does It Mean When You Have High Blood Pressure?
Although your blood pressure changes throughout the day as a result of your activity level, high blood pressure is when your numbers are above normal.
You have high blood pressure if your systolic measurement is 140 mm Hg or higher and your diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
Having high blood pressure puts your body at risk of health conditions such as heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
While you might think you’d be able to spot the signs of having high blood pressure, the truth is that this condition doesn’t have symptoms or warning signs. This is why it’s called the silent killer.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are many different things that can cause you to have high blood pressure.
These include the following:
- Eating a diet that’s high in cholesterol, fat, or salt.
- Having a chronic health condition such as diabetes, kidney problems, and high cholesterol.
- Having a family history of high blood pressure, such as if your close relatives or parents have high blood pressure.
- Having a lack of physical activity.
- Being of an older age. Basically the older you are, the more likely it is that you’ll have high blood pressure.
- Being obese or overweight.
- Consuming some types of birth control and other medicines.
- Using tobacco.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Leading a stressful lifestyle.
Foods To Avoid When You Have High Blood Pressure
Salt is one of the most important ingredients that you have to be careful of consuming if you have high blood pressure.
This is because consuming salt makes your body hold onto fluids. This increases your blood volume and blood pressure.
Salty foods aside, saturated fats and sugar can also increase blood pressure so you have to be careful with them.
When it comes to alcohol, you have to reduce how much you consume. This is because alcohol can interfere with your blood pressure medications and it’s usually packed with sugar and calories.
If you love to drink lots of coffee and tea every day, be careful as consuming too much caffeine can be problematic for maintaining a stable blood pressure. This is because caffeine causes temporary spikes in blood pressure.
Research has found that drinking two cups of strong coffee can boost both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure for three hours afterwards.
What To Eat When You Have Blood Pressure
While following a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in nutrients contributes to making you healthier, which benefits your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and heart health, there are specific foods and vitamins that will help you to lower your blood pressure numbers.
Foods containing potassium include bananas, potatoes, lentils, avocado, and beet greens. Potassium is important when controlling blood pressure because it actually offsets sodium’s effects in the body.
This is a type of flavonoid, an antioxidant compound that’s present in fruits such as blueberries and strawberries.
A study of people with hypertension found that those who consumed the most anthocyanins experienced an eight percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those who ate less.
You might already know that Vitamin C is an antioxidant with various health benefits, such as improving skin and repairing body tissues.
But it’s also useful for lowering blood pressure. A study found that Vitamin C improved blood pressure readings in people who consumed 500mg of it every day for two months.
Calcium, which is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables and dairy products, is an essential nutrient to help you lower your blood pressure because it regulates the functioning of blood vessels so that they contract and relax when they’re supposed to.
Citrulline is an amino acid that helps to regulate blood pressure in the body. It basically encourages the body to produce nitric oxide.
This is a gas that relaxes the blood vessels and helps the arteries to become more flexible, therefore improving blood circulation so that blood pressure can be lowered.
Another important nutrient to include in your diet is magnesium. If you don’t get enough of it, you can ask your doctor about a magnesium supplement.
Research has found that magnesium supplements lower blood pressure by increasing the body’s nitric oxide production, therefore helping blood vessels to relax. Foods containing magnesium include dried beans and legumes, whole grains, and dark leafy green veggies.
You might already know that protein helps you to stay fuller for longer while giving you more muscle strength to achieve workouts at the gym, but it can also help to lower your blood pressure.
Research has found that diary proteins have compounds in them that behave in the same way as ACE inhibitors, a major type of blood pressure medication.
Other animal proteins, such as eggs, contain arginine in high amounts and this is important because it dilates the blood vessels, thereby improving blood circulation and lowering blood pressure.
Should You Follow The DASH Diet For High Blood Pressure?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension) diet is beneficial for blood pressure because it was specially designed to prevent and lower high blood pressure.
This diet focuses on the inclusion of potassium, calcium, and magnesium foods in one’s diet that help you to lower your blood pressure and maintain a healthy eating plan.
The diet also focuses on reducing foods that contain high amounts of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
Research has found that the DASH diet can lower your blood pressure readings in as little as two weeks, while it also lowers your level of bad cholesterol, which is a risk factor for conditions such as stroke and heart disease.
If you want to follow the DASH diet, make sure you eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also reach for fat-free or low-fat dairy products, nuts, poultry, beans, and fish.
You have to ensure you include foods that are low in sodium and saturated fat, while being high in fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
DASH High Blood Pressure Diet Menu – Pros and Cons
This diet will help you to consume the daily servings that are recommended for various healthy foods.
The DASH diet requires you to eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 7-8 servings of grains, 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy, and 2 or less servings of poultry, fish, and meat.
As for nuts, dry beans, and seeds, aim to get 4-5 servings per week.
Having this guide will help you to choose the right foods to eat and know how much of them to consume on a daily basis.
- The diet is focused on healthy eating that’s not just about blood pressure but maintaining your health in general.
- The diet has been proven to be beneficial. In fact, a 2016 analysis found that it’s probably the most effective dietary measure to lower blood pressure, in both hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients.
- It’s a high blood pressure menu that’s more of a lifestyle choice, so it’s not a fad.
- There’s no organized support available when starting the diet.
- You can’t rely on any convenience foods when following this diet.
Lifestyle Changes To Lower Blood Pressure
Diet aside, you can lower your blood pressure in other ways – and most importantly, without using medication.
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
- Watch your weight. As your weight increases, this becomes a risk factor for high blood pressure. This is why it’s important to watch your weight by stepping on the scale regularly. Even a small loss of weight can make a difference in your blood pressure numbers, with a reduction of 1mm of mercury (mm Hg) with every pound of weight you lose.
- Get regular exercise. Getting about 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week can decrease your blood pressure by around five to eight mm HG. However, you have to be consistent and stick to your workouts, otherwise your blood pressure will creep up again.
- Quit smoking. Just one day after quitting smoking, your blood pressure will start to decrease. Cigarettes constrict your blood vessels and make your heart beat faster, both of which increase your blood pressure.
- Reduce your stress. When you feel stressed, your body responds by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These are the “fight or flight” responses that occur, which make your heart beat faster and your blood vessels constrict, which increase your blood pressure. This effect lasts a short time, but regular stress can cause this to happen regularly. Stress also causes you to reach for alcohol, cigarettes, or unhealthy foods, which also increase your blood pressure.
When To Contact Your Doctor For High Blood Pressure
If you’ve been checking your blood pressure yourself with a blood pressure monitor and it’s higher than what is considered normal – and it doesn’t decrease – you need to consult a doctor.
If your blood pressure is 140 over 90 or higher on two or more occasions, or it’s usually normal but it reaches above 120 over 80 on more than one occasion, it’s time to get in touch with a doctor who will be able to help you get your numbers under control.
There are also times when high blood pressure is considered a medical emergency.
If your blood pressure reading is 180 over 120 or higher and you have symptoms such as chest pain, change in vision, shortness of breath, weakness, difficulty speaking, numbness, or severe headache, go to the emergency room.
These symptoms can point to organ damage from high blood pressure.
Is hypertension the same thing as high blood pressure?
Hypertension and high blood pressure are terms that refer to the same thing and they can be used interchangeably.
What does “mm Hg” mean in blood pressure readings?
“mm Hg” stands for millimetres in mercury, and refers to the height of a column of mercury in a blood pressure reading.
If you have high blood pressure, there are steps you can take to decrease it.
In this article, we’ve looked at how to eat healthy foods that lower your blood pressure as well as other lifestyle choices that can help you to maintain a healthier blood pressure measurement.