By changing a few simple dietary habits, including counting calories and watching portion sizes to boost weight loss, you may be able to lower your blood pressure -- a proven risk for heart disease. Here's the latest diet information you need.
High blood pressure is more common in people who are overweight or obese. But studies show that losing weight has benefits in lowering high blood pressure. Losing weight may also help reduce medications needed to control high blood pressure.
If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a healthy weight loss plan. The best way to lose weight is to move around more -- burning more calories than you take in through exercise and activity. Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes most days) can also help lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart.
Some people are not aware of the calories they consume each day. They may underestimate how much they eat and wonder why they cannot lose weight. Keeping a food diary or written record of your daily food intake is the best way to know what you eat each day.
Writing down the foods you eat, including the portion sizes, can let you see "the real facts" about your food intake. You can then start cutting back -- reducing calories and portion sizes -- to lose necessary pounds and manage your weight and blood pressure.
How does diet influence blood pressure?
Many foods and dietary factors affect blood pressure. Studies show a high-sodium diet increases blood pressure in some people. In fact, some studies show that the less sodium you eat, the better blood pressure control you might have -- even if you're taking blood pressure medications.
Findings also show that potassium, magnesium, and fiber may also affect blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and low in sodium. Also, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, and poultry are good sources of magnesium.
Is the DASH Diet effective for lowering high blood pressure?
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was a study of the effect of different dietary patterns on reducing high blood pressure. Researchers found that volunteers who followed the DASH diet had significantly lower blood pressure after just a few weeks.
They also found the lower-sodium DASH diet, which calls for reducing sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day (about 2/3 teaspoon of table salt), resulted in even greater blood-pressure-lowering benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture recommend that adults should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day; the recommendations also say that African-Americans, people with hypertension, and people who are middle-aged and older, should not consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
Research has shown reduced risk of coronary artery disease and stroke in women who followed the DASH diet for several years.