High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is defined as having systolic blood pressure consistently above 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure consistently above 90 mm Hg. (1) It currently affects nearly 1 billion people worldwide. (1) May 17th is known as world hypertension day, and it is a day to bring awareness and education to this condition. If you currently have high blood pressure, or want to reduce your risk of developing hypertension, read below for some helpful lifestyle and dietary tips.
4 Tips to Avoid High Blood Pressure
Tip 1: Watch Your Sodium Intake
Sodium is a mineral found in salt, and consuming a diet high in sodium can cause your blood pressure to increase. The American Heart Association encourages people to consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, or 2000 mg for people with hypertension. One teaspoon of salt has ~2300 mg of sodium. When cooking, reduce the amount of salt you add to your food. One rule of thumb is to leave the saltshaker off the kitchen table. Try to incorporate one of the tips below to further reduce your sodium intake.
- Add dried or fresh sage, rosemary and thyme to your next chicken recipe instead of adding salt.
- To add extra flavor to marinades, add a splash of vinegar or citrus juice.
- Utilize salt-free seasoning blends in recipes.
- Rinse canned items such as tuna fish, beans, and vegetables to reduce some of the sodium.
Sodium can be sneaky! Up to 75 % of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, deli meats, canned food, and frozen meals. (2) That’s why it is important to read the food label to look at the sodium content in foods. If an item has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving, it is considered a “low sodium” option.
Tip 2: Limit Alcohol Intake
Regular and heavy consumption of alcohol can negatively impact blood pressure. (3) To find a healthier balance with alcohol intake and blood pressure, it is encouraged to drink in moderation. Drinking in moderation includes no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. One drink equals 12-ounces of beer, five-ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or one ounce of hard liquor (100 proof).
Tip 3: Get up and Move!
Getting more movement can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Not only does it help maintain a healthy body weight, which is also beneficial in improving blood pressure, but exercise alone has been shown to improve blood pressure. The American Heart Association encourages people to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity movement per week. (4) Examples of moderate intensity workouts include: walking 2 miles in 30 minutes, water aerobics, or shooting a basketball for 30 minutes. Additionally, it is beneficial to incorporate muscle strengthening at least twice per week.
Other benefits of exercise include:
- Reduces stress.
- Improves sleep.
- Provides an opportunity to get fresh air and vitamin D from the sun.
- Lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases (i.e., dementia).
- Gives you energy and makes you feel good!
Tip 4: Important Minerals
Looking for another reason to eat whole grains and vegetables? Certain minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium have been shown to improve blood pressure because they relax the walls of the blood vessels. Food which contains these important minerals include: low-fat dairy products, leafy greens, beans/lentils, and whole grains. Try incorporating at least one of these each day into your meals.
Challenge yourself to celebrate World Hypertension Day by incorporating a few new lifestyle and dietary changes. If you are interested in exploring other ways to further improve your heart health book an appointment online with a dietitian or call our Nutrition Coordinators at (919) 237-1337, option 4 today.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, May 17). World Hypertension Day – May 17. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 28, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/resources/awareness/world-hypertension-day.html
- US Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Your guide to lowering blood pressure – National Institutes of Health. Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure. Retrieved April 28, 2023, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf
- The facts about high blood pressure. www.heart.org. (2022, November 30). Retrieved April 28, 2023, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure
- American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids. www.heart.org. (2022, July 28). Retrieved April 28, 2023, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults