The Most Crucial Eating Habit for High Blood Pressure: Eat This, Not That

High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because many people don’t know they have the life-threatening condition. Nearly half of American adults, about 116 million Americans, have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although high blood pressure may not have obvious signs or symptoms, it can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when you have a high amount of force or pressure from your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. If the pressure on the artery walls is persistent, this can cause a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or kidney disease.

A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic pressure. An example of a healthy level would be 110/70. Normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of up to 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic reading of up to 80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is defined as 140 mm Hg or more systolic and 90 mm Hg diastolic.

When it comes to preventing or To lower your blood pressure, your first step should be to eat a healthy diet consisting primarily of plant-based foods to increase potassium in your meals and snacks..

Including foods rich in potassium in your diet is the most important eating habit for high blood pressure

Potassium is the mineral that can help neutralize the sodium in your diet and acts in many other ways to moderate blood pressure. One of the main reasons hypertension rates are so high in the US is that we have high sodium intake and low potassium intake. The relationship between sodium and potassium is thought to be critical in helping to control blood pressure.

A plant-rich diet that is high in potassium has the added benefit of helping your blood pressure by helping you lose weight, which is another powerful way to lower blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood pressure could drop about 1 mm Hg with each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight lost.

How to Include More Potassium-Rich Foods in Your Diet

foods with potassium
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To increase potassium in your meals and snacks, a proven way to meet your recommended daily intake of potassium is to track the number of servings of produce, grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products that are part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to stop hypertension) provides three times more potassium than the average American diet.

A study published in Journal of the American Heart Association reported that following the DASH diet is the most effective non-pharmaceutical approach to lowering blood pressure. Following the DASH diet resulted in an approximately 7 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 3.5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.

Here are the main food groups and the number of servings recommended on the DASH diet to help increase potassium in your diet.

  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day. A serving is 1 cup of raw leafy green vegetables, 1/2 cup of raw or cooked cut vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice.
  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day. One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup of fruit juice.
  • Grain: 6 to 8 servings a day. A serving is one slice of bread, one ounce of dry cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings a day. One serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week. A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or 1/2 cup of cooked legumes (dried beans or peas).

How much potassium is enough?

The National Institutes of Health recommends that women consume 2,600 milligrams and men 3,400 milligrams of potassium each day. Most of us do not meet this daily intake target and it is considered a nutrient of public health concern. Recent national data shows that men get on average about 3,000 mg per day, while women get about 2,300 milligrams per day.

Increasing the amount of potassium in a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to control blood pressure. A simple Google search for DASH diet menus will give you great inspiration to get started.

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD

Julie Upton is an award-winning registered dietitian and communications specialist who has written thousands of articles for national media outlets, including The New York Times, US News & World Report, and USA Today. read more

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