Switching to a high blood pressure diet can be a small or big adjustment depending on your current eating habits. Either way, making small, gradual changes over time will make your transition to healthier eating much more tolerable.
But this can seem overwhelming even if you already follow a relatively healthy diet. Is there one food that you should focus on eating more of than all the rest? There might be — and there’s a chance you’re already eating s small amount of it.
Possible high blood pressure causes
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High blood pressure affects millions of Americans, putting them at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other chronic conditions. With the right medications and lifestyle changes, it’s fairly manageable for most people once diagnosed. What isn’t always so simple is identifying the cause.
This is because possible causes of high blood pressure range from genes to weight to alcohol intake and more. Physical inactivity and diet, however, are extremely common risk factors for developing hypertension and heart problems.
What’s clear from decades’ worth of research is that what you eat — or don’t — can make a huge difference in your long-term health.
If you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure, or you already have it, your doctor or dietitian might recommend making changes such as reducing your sodium intake. There’s a very good reason for this recommendation.
Why are salty foods bad for you?
Put simply, salt raises blood pressure — especially if you eat a lot of foods high in sodium over a long period of time.
Eating too much salt puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your body. Your kidneys, for example, can only filter so much salt out of your blood at a time. Overworking them wears them down and making them less efficient.
Salt also forces your body to hold in more water, which increases your blood pressure because your heart has to work harder to pump blood efficiently through various parts of your body — including your kidneys and other organs.
Unfortunately, excess salt can be a major contributor to high blood pressure — as can large amounts of refined sugar. But sometimes, instead of focusing on what not to eat, it’s more helpful to think about what you should be eating more of to get your blood pressure under control.
High blood pressure diet: What to eat to lower blood pressure
Oatmeal | iStock.com/Roxiller
Eating to lower blood pressure isn’t easy when you aren’t used to incorporating a variety of foods into your meals and snacks. But just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The best way to initiate change for many people in this situation is to pick one type of food to eat less of and one to eat more of. For example, you might start by pledging to eat ice cream only once per week, and begin eating vegetables at least once per day.
If you only make one change to your diet in an attempt to reduce your blood pressure — at least in the beginning — make sure it’s all about fiber.
Foods high in fiber include mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — think berries, spinach, and oatmeal made from real oats.
Fiber, present in plant-based foods, helps to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of related diseases, though researchers aren’t exactly sure why. It may be one of the most important things you can include in your diet to keep your heart healthy and live a longer, healthier life.
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