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Diet Tips for Managing High Blood Pressure

When high blood pressure hits your life, it’s okay to feel a bit overwhelmed. Hypertension rarely has any symptoms, so the diagnosis strikes many as a surprise. However, unlike so many diseases and conditions that take the driver’s seat with your health, you retain a large amount of control over your future with high blood pressure. One way to take control is by making lifestyle changes to include more physical activity in your day. Even modest amounts of exercise can have a huge impact when you’re trying to reduce your blood pressure scores.

When you add healthy changes to your eating habits, you start another sound strategy in the war on hypertension. Healthy eating contributes to weight loss. Any extra pounds you’re carrying increase the blood pressure load. Even the food choices you make may be enough to bump hypertension down a notch or two.

Better still, heart-healthy dieting is well-researched and well-developed, so there’s no need for you to start from scratch. For example, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a well-established eating plan that not only addresses blood pressure, but it’s also effective to combat cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and stroke.

The hidden perils of salt

For some people, excess sodium can increase blood pressure, and the American Heart Association recommends a diet that’s aggressively low in sodium. It’s not simply a matter of avoiding the salt shaker, however, since up to 75% of dietary sodium is hidden, already in processed and prepared foods. The flavor-enhancing properties of sodium chloride – the chemical name for table salt – make it an easy way to make processed foods taste good. Learn to read food labels and watch for the words, salt, sodium, soda, or the symbol Na. There’s also no benefit to using sea salt or kosher salt. Each of these is 40% sodium, the same as table salt.

Whole grain options

Worried that the simple pleasures of a good sandwich are a threat to your blood pressure? It doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, the DASH plan calls for six to eight servings of grain daily. Your sandwich-making techniques might need an overhaul, however. First, make the switch from refined grains to whole grain options, such as 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain breads. Whole grains are naturally low in fat, so steer clear of butter or mayo. Other great grain additions include brown rice, stone-rolled oats, and pasta made from whole wheat.

Fruits and vegetables

If you’re a fan of fresh produce, you’ll enjoy the DASH provision of four to five servings of both fruit and vegetables allowed daily. Fresh produce is full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and often their frozen or canned counterparts are equally nutritious, but again, check the labels to avoid hidden sodium and sugars. Look toward loading half your plate with vegetables at dinner time, and offset smaller portions of meat with larger servings of non-starchy vegetables. You’ll leave the table satisfied, full of blood pressure-friendly foods.

Reduce, don’t eliminate

Meat, dairy, and cooking fats all get a bad rap, yet each provides necessary components for a healthy diet, and in moderation, there’s usually no need to cut these entirely. The secret is reasonable portion sizes. For example, one serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and many eating plans, such as DASH, permit up to six servings a day. So there’s still room on your plate for steak, but increase your lean meat options. Turn toward chicken, turkey, and fish, while cutting back on fatty red meat cuts. Similarly, low-fat dairy products provide many of the benefits of full-fat dairy, but in a form that’s calorie streamlined.

Eating to improve your blood pressure does take change, but think in terms of modification, rather than denial. Healthy eating isn’t a matter of choking down tasteless food. Adjust the way you currently eat with informed choices, and hypertension will be yesterday’s worry.

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