High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to elevated pressure of blood against your artery walls.
Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage leading to heart disease, aneurysms, stroke, cognitive impairment, and dementia. High blood pressure can also lead to kidney disease, eye disease, sexual dysfunction, and even interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it typically doesn’t have any symptoms and can go unnoticed, and untreated, for years with damage accumulating in the background. You have to test to know.
Many risk factors for high blood pressure are out of your control, such as age, family history, gender, and race. But there are also factors you can control, such as exercise and diet, body weight, alcohol intake, vitamin D status, and stress levels.
Diet and blood pressure
Diet has a profound impact when it comes to managing blood pressure that goes far beyond just lowering sodium intake; blood pressure-loving nutrients include potassium, magnesium, and calcium, but evidence also supports a role for vitamin D and the omega-3 fats EPA & DHA.
Diet also provides plant compounds called polyphenols that help to keep blood pressure down by keeping blood vessels flexible; when it comes to blood vessels, being stiff is not a good thing. The softer and more pliable vessels are, the less your heart has to work to move the blood around around your body.
Keep your blood pressure healthy with these 9 foods
Tomatoes & tomato products
Tomatoes and tomato products like tomato paste, tomato juice, and crushed tomatoes are one of the richest sources of potassium. In a sense, potassium helps to counter the modest blood pressure-raising effect of sodium.
Long before highly processed foods hit the shelves, we used to consume a ton of potassium relative to sodium; some newer research suggests that in a perfect world, we’d get about 5x more potassium than sodium and our health would love us for it.
Getting more potassium and less sodium really is the way to go and tomatoes are an important ally.
Why should sweet potatoes get all the attention? Good old white potatoes haven’t enjoyed the superfood status of their orange counterparts but regular potatoes are full of vitamin C and have loads of potassium too!
As mentioned, potassium is probably the most important mineral when it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure. Potatoes also have resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate that feed the good bacteria in our gut.
Research has shown that these bacteria, in turn, release compounds into the blood that make their way to the kidneys helping them to do one of their main jobs; moderating blood pressure – so cool.
Like tomatoes & potatoes, yogurt is also a phenomenally rich source of potassium; it’s not all just about bananas. Yogurt also has the added benefit of calcium, an important partner in your high blood pressure-fighting efforts.
Pumpkin is no shrinking violet either when it comes to delivering a potassium bunch but there’s more; pumpkin is rich in different nutrients that help to reduce inflammation and blood vessel damage too that occurs with high blood pressure.
In this sense, pumpkin helps to keep your blood vessels a little more youthful; youthful vessels are more flexible and dynamic, helping to keep the blood flowing smoothly.
Pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dried peas & beans)
These beauties have it all: potassium, magnesium and calcium not to mention a boatload polyphenols all working in harmony to keep your blood pressure in check. Pulses are one of the most versatile foods around.
They can be used in so many ways; there’s really no excuse not to try them or include them more often in your daily fare.
Almonds are one of the best plant sources of calcium but they also bring in some extras like potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and other polyphenols. These all work together to help relax blood vessels, improving blood flow while reducing oxidative damage to he lining of the blood vessels.
Many foods have naturally occurring nitrates; compounds that have gotten a bad rap because there are nitrate-based preservatives in processed meats like bacon but the reality is, your body produces far more nitrates than can ever be found in deli meats and the like.
Nitrates, under high heat, can be converted to nitrosamines (bad) which is why bacon is beat up on so often and it’s also why vitamin C is added to bacon to help prevent nitrosamines from forming but I digress.
Foods like spinach, and beets mentioned below, are rich sources of nitrates that blood vessels convert to nitric oxide; the gas that allows blood vessels to expand and relax thereby lowering blood pressure.
Beets; rich in nitrates, beautifully lower blood pressure and very quickly after consuming them, so get more beets, anyway you like them, if you want to leverage the power of food to battle hypertension.
Roast them, boil them, juice them, shredded them into salads, or pickle them. There’s ways to please all tastes alike.
Here it’s all about polyphenols, those compounds that work on many levels to help expand blood vessels thereby reducing the pressure of blood within the cardiovascular system as it travels along the blood vessel highway.