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Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

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How Much Alcohol Can I Drink if I Have High Blood Pressure? continued...

This is what counts as a drink:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof or 1 ounce of 100-proof whiskey
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer (regular or light)

You may have heard that some alcohol is good for your heart. Some studies suggest that people who consume a drink or two a day have lower blood pressure and live longer than those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or no alcohol at all. Others note that wine raises the "good" (HDL) blood cholesterol that prevents the build-up of fats in the arteries.

While these studies may be correct, they don't tell the whole story. Too much alcohol contributes to a host of other health problems, such as motor vehicle accidents, diseases of the liver and pancreas, damage to the brain and heart, an increased risk of many cancers, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol is also high in calories. So you should limit how much you drink.

Should I Take Dietary Supplements?

Other things, like dietary supplements, may also help prevent high blood pressure. Here's a roundup of what's being said about them.

  • Potassium. Eating foods rich in potassium will help protect some people from developing high blood pressure. You probably can get enough potassium from your diet, so a supplement isn't necessary. Many fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and fish are good sources of potassium.
  • Calcium. Populations with low calcium intakes have high rates of high blood pressure. However, it has not been proven that taking calcium tablets will prevent high blood pressure. But it is important to be sure to get at least the recommended amount of calcium -- 800 to 1,200 milligrams per day for adults (pregnant and breastfeeding women need more) -- from the foods you eat. Dairy foods like low-fat selections of milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products have even more calcium than the high-fat types.
  • Magnesium. A diet low in magnesium may make your blood pressure rise. But doctors don't recommend taking extra magnesium to help prevent high blood pressure -- the amount you get in a healthy diet is enough. Magnesium is found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dry peas and beans.
  • Fish oils. A type of fat called "omega-3 fatty acids" is found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon. Large amounts of fish oils may help reduce high blood pressure, but their role in prevention is unclear. Taking fish oil pills may be difficult because high doses can cause unpleasant side effects, such as fishy smelling breath. The pills are also high in fat and calories. Fish, if not fried or made with added fat, is low in saturated fat and calories and can be eaten often, so it is generally a better way to receive omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Next Article:

What is your biggest heart disease risk factor?