Advertisement

Are there general recommendations for diet to reduce high blood pressure?

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There are a handful of easy things to do to reduce high blood pressure. 

  1. lose weight
  2. get daily physical activity
  3. limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day
  4. increase the amount of potassium in food
  5. of course, don't smoke

Diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on your health. Following the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) diet can be very effective at lowering blood pressure. See a registered dietitian for help regarding the DASH diet.

Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Many people are aware that reducing sodium in the diet may help reduce blood pressure. In addition, calcium, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are important. Losing just 5 to 10 percent body weight may help reduce blood pressure. Eat more fruits and vegetables since potassium can help to reduce blood pressure.

High blood pressure affects more than one in four Americans. It makes your heart work harder, damages arteries and increases your heart disease risk. Limiting sodium can help reduce this risk. But you may also be able to improve your blood pressure by adding potassium and calcium to your diet.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Reduce your sodium intake. Limit grams of sodium to less than 2000mg per day. Take the salt shaker off the table. Avoid packaged processed snacks. Avoid over salty foods like olives, anchovies and tuna fish. Eat more high potassium rich vegetables and fruits:

  • apricots
  • bananas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • baked potatoes
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • orange juice
  • winter squash

Don't smoke. Exercise regularly.

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There are some general dietary recommendations to follow which may help reduce an already elevated blood pressure. Firstly, avoiding as much as possible any processed, packaged, canned foods which are typically high in salt. Consume several servings of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables which helps support a healthy blood pressure. Your diet should focus on whole foods that are in their natural unprocessed state. By making these changes in your diet you can help reduce elevated blood pressure.

Lowering your blood pressure (BP) can be tricky, but with a simple change in diet, you may be able to knock it down a few points and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

For help with lowering your blood pressure without medication, try to get 20 percent of your daily calories from whole-grain, high-fiber foods instead of refined "white" carbs. It could drop your systolic BP 4 to 8 points and your diastolic BP another 6 to 8 points.

Another bonus of going to a high blood pressure diet is that it can help reduce high cholesterol. Because high blood pressure and high cholesterol often go hand in hand -- and both put you at risk for cardiovascular disease -- eating to control one issue may help you solve the other.

Eating fiber can help. Both soluble and insoluble fiber were shown to lower blood pressure in middle-aged people with the unfortunate combo of borderline high cholesterol and prehypertension. Soluble fiber does double duty by lowering cholesterol, too.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

To lower high blood pressure, you should:

  • Reduce your sodium intake to no more than 2,400 milligrams daily.
  • Lose excess weight.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Drink alcohol only moderation, if you do drink.
  • Follow the DASH Diet.

Yes. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been studied for years and it has shown to reduce high blood pressure (also called hypertension). The main goal of the DASH diet is to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Because the DASH diet is generally a very healthy way of eating, it provides you with benefits in addition to lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet may offer protection against cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke. On the DASH diet you should eat: Grains (6 to 8 servings a day); Vegetables (4 to 5 servings a day); Fruits (4 to 5 servings a day); Dairy (2 to 3 servings a day); Lean meat, poultry and fish (6 or fewer servings a day); Nuts, seeds and legumes (4 to 5 servings a week); Fats and oils (2 to 3 servings a day)—but avoid saturated and trans-fats as much as possible. For more information on the DASH diet go to: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). More information: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf. For help to design a meal plan specifically for you, ask your health care provider for a referral to a registered dietitian who can help you design a diet that incorporates your particular health history, as well as energy and nutrient needs.

For individuals who are overweight, it is important that they reduce the amount of calories and food portions consumed each day. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a good eating plan to follow because it is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and emphasizes fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat milk products. The Dash eating plan can be downloaded for free at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Yes, there are. There is a program called the DASH diet that will help you outline which foods to eat, and how much, to make a really positive impact on blood pressure. The DASH diet incorporates 100 percent whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and healthy oils into your diet.

Laura Russell
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for blood pressure and heart health. They help to keep arteries and veins slippery so plaques can't form (plaques cause blood pressure to increase). Most of our diets are very deficient in omega-3s. The best food source is fatty fish such as salmon. Because we don't usually eat fish daily, supplements are a good way to meet omega-3 needs of 1,000-2,000 mg/day. Look for a supplement that provides at least 1,000mg of DHA/EPH omega-3 by reading the label closely. Also, keep these in the freezer to help prevent fish tasting reflux or buy enteric coated capsules.

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Yes. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) has been shown to effectively lower blood pressure. It encourages plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. Fish, poultry, beans and nuts are recommended for protein, while red meat, saturated fats and sweets are limited. Get full details on the DASH diet at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash.

Meanwhile, here are a few things you can start doing today to help lower your blood pressure.

Cut back on sodium. Contrary to popular belief, we don't get most of the sodium in our diets from the salt shaker. In fact, almost 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods and the foods we eat away from home in restaurants, vending machines and snack bars. Try to incorporate more fresh foods to avoid this trap.

Pay attention to potassium. Potassium helps prevent and control high blood pressure. If you're already adding bananas to your shopping list, great! But did you know that a cup of mushrooms has more potassium than a medium banana? It's true. Potassium is found in a variety of fruits and veggies including tomatoes, oranges, sweet potatoes, lima beans and leafy greens as well as yogurt, milk and fish.

Get your daily dose of calcium. Low fat milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, cereal and soy or almond milk are all great options. Dark green leafy vegetables do double duty because most are also a good source of calcium and potassium.

Remember: Diet is important but maintainign a healthy weight, managing stress, not smoking and getting regular physical activity all play a major role in keeping blood pressure under control. Be sure to include these in your efforts as well.

People who consume a vegetarian diet often have significantly lower blood pressure than those who do not. Vegetarian and vegetarian like diets contain more potassium, calcium, magnesium,vitamin c, complex carbohydrates (starches), essential fatty acids and fiber. All of these key food nutrients have been shown to have benefits on blood pressure.

The following foods are especially useful for normal blood pressure:

  • Celery
  • Garlic and onions
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes

The DASH diet, so named for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, includes meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables with low/no-fat dairy. Also, increasing calcium and potassium in the diet may be effective in reducing blood pressure. These diets are also low in salt or sodium and are recommended by the American Heart Association and many other health organizations,including the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Conversely, foods that are high in salt, fat, processed carbohydrates, etc. can have adverse affects on the body including leading to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of hypertension. However, learning to read food labels can help in the selection of healthy food choices. For instance, try to avoid foods that contain saturated fats, trans fats, high sugar and high salt.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been shown to be effective in reducing high blood pressure. The nutrient dense DASH diet promotes whole grains, low fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts with limited red meat, sweets, saturated fat and sweetened beverages. Eliminate added salt in your diet and avoid high sodium packaged and processed foods.

Continue Learning about High Blood Pressure Prevention

3 Nutrients That Help Prevent High Blood Pressure
3 Nutrients That Help Prevent High Blood Pressure
The time-worn axiom “good things come in threes” was said by ancient Romans (omne trium perfectum) and has been advocated by as distinguished a mind a...
Read More
Can primary high blood pressure be prevented?
Peter N. Mattar, MDPeter N. Mattar, MD
Absolutely. Primary high blood pressure can be prevented by maintaining a diet low in sodium (salt)...
More Answers
How can I exercise safely if I have high blood pressure?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
If you have high blood pressure, participating in exercise -- whether daily or two to three times a ...
More Answers
How Does Obesity Affect the Body?
How Does Obesity Affect the Body?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.