Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls. Blood pressure varies throughout the day, but when it remains high, it is called high blood pressure (or hypertension). High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard. If untreated, over time this can lead to heart failure. In addition, the force of the blood flow can harm organs such as the kidneys, eyes and brain.
Fortunately, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by what you choose to eat. General heart-healthy guidelines are important for people with high blood pressure. But research, called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), shows that a low-sodium eating plan full of potassium-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products can lower your blood pressure, which helps your heart pump more efficiently.
Here are some simple ways to change your eating plan to lower blood pressure:
Follow a DASH-like Eating Plan
- Whole grains: 6 to 8 servings per day
- Fruits and vegetables: 8 to 10 servings per day
- Low-fat or nonfat milk and cheese products: 2 to 3 servings per day
- Lean meats, poultry or fish: 6 ounces or less per day
- Fats: 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil per day
- Nuts, Seeds, Legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week
- Sugar: 5 tablespoons or less per week
This eating plan is based on a 2,000 calorie-diet, so depending on your individual calorie needs, you may require more or fewer servings than are listed. But it is an example of how an eating plan to lower blood pressure is based on many servings of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; some low-fat dairy products; a small amount of lean meat; a little healthy unsaturated fat; and very little sugar. Following an eating plan that is full of these fresh foods makes it easier to avoid sodium. Consider other ways to slash sodium from your diet as well.
Achieve a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight helps prevent and manage high blood pressure. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can help achieve better blood pressure levels. It is important to balance calories eaten with regular physical activity. You may want to talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider about your daily need for calories. Reading food labels can also help you become aware of the calories in foods. When you are ready to lose weight, it helps to first analyze your eating behaviors and then move on to starting a plan and setting goals.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol increases blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women, one to two drinks per day for men). Learn more about alcolol and heart health here.