Delicious edibles to beat back hypertension.
By Kristen Sturt
Have high blood pressure, or know someone who does? Head on over to the supermarket, because these 15 foods are your secret weapons in the fight against hypertension.
Some, like blueberries and nuts, you probably already knew about. But others? Trust us, you have no idea. (Beet juice, anyone?) Read on to discover which heart-friendly edibles made the list, and learn how they can make your cardiovascular system a better place to be.
If you or someone you love has high blood pressure, heart-threatening high triglycerides (over 100), or low heart-protective HDL cholesterol (under 50), put pomegranate juice on your weekly grocery list. Drinking just 10 ounces of it a week for a year could impressively improve all three. We say this because pomegranate juice did exactly that in people who need all the heart help they can get: kidney dialysis patients, who are intensely vulnerable to cardiac trouble. Bonus: Pomegranate juice may also help keep your colon cancer-free.
Buy 100% pure juice, no sugar added, or try the whole fruit. Then, enjoy every anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, heart-protective bite.
Want a delicious way to help your blood pressure? An analysis of 25 studies showed that regular tea drinking could lower your top blood pressure number (systolic) by around 2.6 mmHg, and your bottom number (diastolic) about 2.2 mmHg, contributing to an 8 percent reduced risk of stroke. Green tea seemed to have the most powerful effect; black tea was second.
In a separate study, drinking three cups of hibiscus tea every day reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of seven points in people with prehypertension or mildly elevated blood pressure.
Tea lowers blood pressure seemingly by allowing blood vessels to relax and help their lining stay healthy.
Blood pressure numbers creeping up? You might be able to beat 'em back down with beet juice.
One small study found that, compared with subjects who drank water, those who drank a serving of beet juice had a drop in blood pressure just one hour later. Twenty-four hours later, systolic blood pressure was still several points lower in the beet juice drinkers than in the water drinkers.
Before you go overboard on beet juice, keep in mind that it was a small study with lots of caveats—and lots more research will be needed to confirm the results. But the initial take? Promising.
Head down the dairy aisle to help keep your blood pressure in check.
In a pair of studies, diets rich in low-fat dairy products seemed to reduce blood pressure by 31 and 50 percent, respectively. With all of the blood-pressure-friendly minerals in dairy—like calcium, magnesium, and potassium—the results aren't hard to fathom. And since low-fat dairy is lighter on calories, it makes sense that it may be more helpful than full-fat dairy, which packs more waist-widening (and thus blood-pressure-boosting) calories.
A separate study found that soy milk might hold similar benefits, as well.
One great way to satisfy your cravings while keeping your blood pressure in check: dark chocolate.
In a study of middle-aged and older people with mildly elevated blood pressure, those who ate one 30-calorie square each day reaped benefits: their blood pressure readings dropped several points after just 18 weeks of nibbling. It also translated into a 21 percent lower risk for really problematic blood pressure—the kind so high it requires prescription medication.
Credit the flavonols in dark chocolate, which boost production of artery-relaxing nitric oxide. Related: Dark chocolate can also help reduce atherosclerosis and blood clotting, and add to an overall reduction in heart attacks.
First things first: Never change or stop your prescriptions without express instructions from your doctor. That said, a bowl of oatmeal in the morning may be a wonderful thing to add to your blood pressure management plan.
In a study of folks with high blood pressure, a diet supplemented with oats was not only more effective than wheat fiber at slashing blood pressure readings, but also helped control cholesterol and blood sugar. That's a powerful package of heart-protective benefits for one little grain.
To reap the study participants' full benefits, you need about three-fourths of a cup of whole-grain oatmeal at breakfast, plus an oat-based snack later in the day.
When hypertensive men in an eight-week study drank two 16-ounce servings of Concord grape juice each day, they enjoyed a significant drop in their blood pressure compared with the placebo-sipping group. Now that's something to make your heart sing!
Researchers applaud the polyphenols in both grape juice and purple grapes for their blood-pressure-lowering benefit. It's believed that these compounds trigger the production of nitric oxide, a chemical that dilates blood vessels, which in turn helps lower the pressure inside them.
Keep in mind, though, that grape juice calories will add up, so don't drink too much without kicking out another calorie source.
Piling your favorite sandwich fixings on the right kind of bread could help lower high blood pressure. The right choice? One hundred percent whole grain bread.
A study showed that a diet high in whole grains may assist in lowering high blood pressure by as much as 20 percent. And all you have to do is check a label!
In fact, want to keep your blood pressure below the 140/90 danger point? Get at least four servings of whole-grain foods a day. Hypertension risk starts to drop with just one to two servings of whole grains daily, but getting four makes the greatest impact. Try shredded wheat, popcorn, brown rice and of course, whole grain bread.
Here's a great morning meal for better blood pressure: Grind up some flaxseeds and sprinkle them on your whole-grain cereal.
That's right. Whole grains are good for lowering blood pressure, and flaxseeds may help bring it down a bit as well.
Flaxseeds are abundant in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. And in a study, ALA-rich foods lowered blood pressure slightly—probably because this omega-3 fatty acid helps relax blood vessels, allowing blood to move more freely through arteries. And since even small drops in blood pressure can help your health in big ways—by guarding against stroke and cardiovascular disease—why not sneak in more flaxseeds where you can?
Cereal always tastes better with a topping. And for healthy blood pressure, choose freeze-dried blueberries.
In a study of obese people with metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health risk factors that can lead to diabetes or heart disease—those who had freeze-dried blueberries added to their diets daily experienced significant improvements in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure after just eight weeks.
People in the study consumed the equivalent of two-plus cups of fresh berries per day. Similar benefits have also been seen in studies with cranberries, strawberries and raspberries as well as other fresh fruit.
Cheap and plentiful, bananas are bursting with potassium. And a review of several major studies suggests that people who add the potassium equivalent of an extra 1-1/2 to 2 bananas to their day could drop their blood pressure 2 to 3 points.
In other research, people with the highest potassium intake levels cut their stroke risk by 24 percent compared to people who got the least potassium. The mineral works by encouraging your kidneys to filter more pressure-boosting sodium out of your bloodstream. It also helps tiny blood vessels relax and makes pressure sensors in artery walls function more efficiently.
Opt for fresh produce over pills, as drugs can be harmful if you have kidney problems.
Ounce for ounce, dried peaches and apricots deliver nearly six times the potassium in bananas—the mighty mineral that helps control blood pressure.
In one study, researchers found that potassium citrate, the all-natural form in fruits and vegetables, significantly lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension. The extra potassium brought the study participants' systolic blood pressure down by about 13 points and lowered their diastolic blood pressure by about 5 points.
Along with apricots and bananas, try these potassium-rich fruits and juices for variety: cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.
Whether you favor fingerling, purple, red, or russets, you shouldn't have any qualms about eating spuds, because they're loaded with an ingredient that may lower blood pressure and help avert strokes: potassium.
How much extra potassium did the top consumers get in one study in order to enjoy the potassium benefits? If you had a glass of orange juice for breakfast, a quarter cup of raisins for a snack, and a baked potato for dinner (with the skin), you'd get an additional 1,600 milligrams—an amount that would nudge you into the high-potassium group and aid in the prevention of stroke. If you're not getting your fill, don't take a supplement; it's safest to get your potassium from food.
The healthy fat in walnuts keeps inflammation out of your arteries, and the magnesium can lower both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure a few points each. Magnesium helps keep a lid on blood pressure by balancing levels of sodium and calcium in and around your cells. It also helps arteries chill out and relax.
You'll get 81 milligrams (mg) of magnesium in the a little handful of cashews, too. That's a good start toward the 400 mg to 500 mg of magnesium you need daily.
Snack on these sweet nuggets instead of chips, cookies, or other processed stuff and you could lower your blood pressure numbers five to ten percent. Raisins contain blood-pressure-friendly potassium, as well as fiber and beneficial compounds called polyphenols that keep artery walls flexible. That's good, because stiff blood vessel walls raise blood pressure.
For extra oomph, toss raisins in other blood pressure-friendly foods, such as oatmeal, salads, homemade banana bread, or plain, nonfat yogurt.
Clinically known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause a host of problems if left untreated. The most common type of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure causes our hearts to work harder by forcing blood to push ag...ainst the walls of our arteries at an elevated level. Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and heart attack. It also increases your risk of having heart and kidney failure and hardening of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. More