To help lower your blood pressure, you can do more things than just follow the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension guidelines and cut salt from your diet. Here are a few more tips when it comes to shooting for a low blood pressure number.
Rack up potassium: Some people who have hypertension take thiazide diuretics that cause a loss of potassium, so they are told to eat a banana each day to replace it. But researchers now think extra potassium may be a good idea for everyone. Not only do we eat too much sodium, we take in too little potassium. It's the balance between sodium and potassium that is thought to be important to blood pressure.
Don't run out to buy potassium supplements, however. That could be dangerous. Both too much and too little potassium can trigger a heart attack. Stick to foods high in potassium to be safe; foods rich in potassium include bananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, and milk.
A caveat: If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and are taking a potassium-sparing diuretic (ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure) or if you have kidney disease, first ask your doctor whether you need extra potassium.
Collect calcium: Your heart needs calcium to maintain its proper rhythm, and your kidneys need calcium to regulate your body's sodium/water balance. Research has shown, however, that people who have high blood pressure generally don't get enough dietary calcium. Other studies confirm that getting extra calcium can actually lower blood pressure. But that effect is not necessarily seen with calcium supplements. Rely, instead, on foods that are rich in calcium.
Go for garlic: Numerous researchers have pointed to garlic's ability to lower blood pressure. It also makes a fabulous flavor replacement when you're cutting back on salt.
Let fruits and vegetables reign: Vegetarians have a much lower incidence of high blood pressure.
You, too, can benefit from this approach without becoming a vegetarian. Gradually increase your daily servings by sneaking in an extra serving or two at each meal. You will likely be eating less fat, more fiber, less salt, and more potassium -- and you'll probably lose weight. Those benefits will help lower your blood pressure.
Curb the bad habits: Drinking, like smoking, is strongly associated with high blood pressure. Heavy drinkers probably double their risk of high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one per day for women. (One drink equals 1/2 ounce alcohol, the amount found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 11/2 ounces of 80-proof whiskey.)
Caffeine, however, doesn't appear to be associated with hypertension. While it can raise your blood pressure temporarily, your body adapts to the caffeine level if you routinely drink a certain amount of coffee, tea, or cola every day, and your blood pressure is no longer affected by that amount.
Though many Americans deal with high blood pressure, it is a treatable condition. With the right diet and exercise as part of an alternative treatment, your high blood pressure most likely can be controlled.
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