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Eat to Beat High Blood Pressure

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  September 18, 2012 01:56 PM

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Sodium Intake, Source: Nutrition & You
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uncovered that not only do approximately 67 million American adults have high blood pressure but also more than half of them aren't controlling it properly with medication and lifestyle changes.  Having uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and dying prematurely.

Just when you think things can't get worse, CDC just announced that the problem has trickle down to America's youth.  In an article published in the journal, Pediatrics, CDC researchers looked at the diets of over 6,200 American children and teens and uncovered that 15 percent of them already had elevated or full-fledged high blood pressure.  Those children in the study who consumed higher amounts of sodium were at a higher risk for high blood pressure, and if they were also overweight or obese, it made the matter worse.  Unfortunately, about 37% of the children in the study were overweight.  Having high blood pressure in childhood sets the stage for entering adulthood with the same health issue.

Since being overweight and consuming too much dietary sodium are both correlated with higher blood pressure, many Americans are at risk.   Currently, over 65 percent of Americans are overweight and the majority of us are also consuming over 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, on average.  This amount of sodium is more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended daily for individuals ages 9 to 50.  Keep in mind that those who are 51 to 70 years of age should consume only 1,300 milligrams and those over 70 years of age, only 1,200 milligrams of sodium daily.  Processed foods are the biggest sources of sodium in our diets.

While losing excess weight and cutting back on dietary sodium can have a dramatic impact on lowering high blood pressure, there are also certain foods that you can eat that may also help.  The following advice may help you eat to beat high blood pressure:

Pump up the Potassium-Rich Foods in Your Diet:  A diet adequate in potassium lowers blood pressure by causing the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body.  Ridding the body of sodium will help lower blood pressure.  Potatoes, orange juice, yogurt, bananas, and beans are all potassium powerhouses.  For a list of more potassium-rich foods and tips on how to get more of them in your diet, please read a previous blog post.

Eat at Least 4.5 cups of Fruits and Veggies Daily:  Mother Nature's finest are naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, making them a dynamic duo.  Because fruits and veggies are also rich in fiber and water, they will "fill you up before they fill you out" and help cut back on the calories typically eaten at a meal.  Cutting calories in your diet can reduce pounds around your waist.  If overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can reduce a person's blood pressure and may actually prevent high blood pressure in many folks even if they haven't yet reached a healthy weight.  Devote half of your plate at every meal to fruits and vegetables otherwise you'll never reach the 4.5 cup minimum quota daily.  Have a piece of fruit at breakfast, load your lunchtime sandwich with layers of tomatoes and lettuce, and accompany it with a side salad. Grab a seasonal apple (this is the sweet season) for dessert.   At dinner, beef up the veggies that you make.  If fresh veggies are not available, reach into the freezer for easy-to-prepare, plain frozen vegetables.

Pass the Milk, Please:  Low fat and skim milk, as well as soymilk, are not only rich in potassium but also calcium and magnesium, other minerals that can help lower blood pressure.  Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal smothered in skim or low fat milk or soymilk. Cook your hot oatmeal with milk rather than water, and order your morning latte with low fat milk rather than cream.

Following Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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