Nutrition Tips for Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers
February is heart health month! You can do a lot to prevent heart disease, and one of the best ways is to get control over your blood pressure. High blood pressure is diagnosed when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high, meaning over 140/90 mmHg. These two numbers demonstrate the pressure of blood flowing through your blood vessels. Unfortunately, a high amount of pressure over a long time can cause damage or changes to the important vessels, increasing the risk for heart attack or stroke.
If you have high blood pressure, here are three ways to start:
- Ask for help. First, talk to your doctor about possible medications to control blood pressure. There are many different kinds depending on your unique body. While most of us don’t like taking medications, they do have their place in bringing your blood pressure numbers into a normal range fairly quickly. The benefits far outweigh the damage that can accumulate in your body without this swift control. Of course, medication isn’t the only thing you should focus on; nutrition and exercise are close second and third steps.
- Eat smart. You also need to review any dietary habits that can contribute to high blood pressure. The first two places to focus on are reducing excess sodium and eating more vegetables. Sodium is directly linked to increasing blood pressure over time. Aim for less than 2400mg of sodium per day (or about 1 teaspoon). Foods with high sodium include fast foods, soups, pizza and cheesy foods. Second, increasing vegetables in your diet to 5-7 servings per day means your body gets more potassium and other nutrients that help manage blood pressure. Some good choices are sweet potatoes, kale and avocados. Additionally, foods that have high amounts of nitric oxide (beets, spinach, celery) help lower blood pressure by improving vascular function and blood flow. How do you start? Track your salt and vegetable intake on paper or with an app like myfitnesspal.com to meet these recommendations. Want more information? Read about the DASH diet.
- Exercise. Exercise is critical to keeping your blood pressure in range. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity movement, paired with some strength exercises. At a loss for ideas? Try walking during your lunch break, stretching at your workstation, walking your dog (or a neighbor’s!) or trying an exercise class at your local gym or community center.