Can good nutrition help manage hypertension? To answer this question we must first understand what hypertension is. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of your blood in your arteries rises, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood through the blood vessels in your body. High blood pressure puts tremendous stress on your body. This higher force of blood flow can make your blood vessels weaker, stiff, or more narrow. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can raise your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
What do the numbers mean?
When reading your blood pressure, it is based on two measures: systolic and diastolic. Systolic, the top number, represents the pressure of each heart contract that causes blood to be pushed through your arteries. Diastolic, the bottom number, represents the pressure of your heart relaxing in between beats.
All too often, people with high blood pressure have no idea, as they often don’t experience any symptoms at all. For those that do, it could be headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
The only way to know is to measure it. If your blood pressure is greater than 135/85 that means you are at high risk. For individuals living with diabetes, the high-risk category is slightly lower, at 130/80.
In fact, if you are living with diabetes and have high blood pressure, you are four times as likely to develop heart disease compared to someone who does not have either of these conditions.
On the opposite end, low risk is 120/80 and medium risk is anything in-between high and low risk.
How can Nutrition Help With Hypertension?
Most people need more than 1 kind of medication to help with blood pressure. On that note, if you have hypertension, there are several dietary strategies you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle to help you lower your blood pressure naturally.
When it comes to diet, the first thing that likely comes to mind is sodium or salt. If you’re wondering how much sodium you should aim to consume per day, the current recommendation is 1500-2300mg per day.
Now, instead of whipping out the calculator to track the sodium in every bite you take, there’s a simpler way to lower your sodium intake. Simply reduce the amount of processed and packaged foods you consume, and replace them with those that are lower in sodium. To help guide you through this change, read on and choose the diet strategies that make the most sense for you.
Nutrition Tips to Help Manage Hypertension
Use Condiments Wisely
A lot of condiments are notoriously high in sodium – soy sauce, taco seasoning, salsa, and ketchup, just to name a few. When purchasing condiments – look at the serving size on the nutrition facts table first. Serving sizes vary from product to product and for condiments, they may range from ¼ cup down to ½ tsp.
Once you know the serving size, look at the amount of sodium listed. To find a condiment that is low in sodium, choose one with 5% or less of the daily value for sodium. Condiments with a daily value of 15% or more for sodium are on the high side.
For most condiments, using a teaspoon (tsp) here or there likely isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re someone that uses condiments liberally, the serving size can be a guide to how much you can incorporate without it being problematic.
Use the chart below to help guide you when shopping for low sodium food items and condiments! You can also make low to no sodium, homemade versions of your favorite condiments, such as garlic-lime marinade. Or you can reference below some of the easy swaps you can make during your next grocery trip!
Swap foods that are higher in sodium with those that are lower in sodium
Instead of instant flavored oats, try large flake-rolled oats.
Instead of prepackaged rice with seasoning, try unseasoned quick cook brown rice.
Instead of processed cheese slices, try natural hard cheese and look at the label for those that are lower in sodium.
- Instead of deli meats for sandwiches, try fresh meats that you cook and slice at home.
- Instead of the regular canned beans or lentils, try “no salt added” canned beans or lentils.
- Instead of store-bought dressing, make your own with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and yes, even a pinch of salt.
Load up half your plate with veggies!
Eating more veggies is one of the easiest ways that you can reduce your sodium intake. Vegetables, and fruits for that matter, are naturally very low in sodium. They are also a great source of potassium which can actually help relax blood pressure walls, helping to lower blood pressure.
To add more veg to your diet, try blending baby spinach into smoothies or add frozen kale to pasta sauces. Load sandwiches with sliced tomatoes or grated carrot. Skip the rice in that burrito and add in more veg instead like cilantro, peppers, or onions.
You can also try cauliflower rice instead of white rice (you can find cauliflower rice in the produce or frozen vegetable section of your grocery store, or you can make it from scratch by grating a fresh cauliflower).
Instead of regular wheat spaghetti, try spiralized butternut squash or zucchini (again, can be found in the frozen section of your grocery store).
- Swap packaged beef burgers with fresh burgers made from lean ground beef and lentils
- When ordering at a restaurant, skip the fries and order a side of mixed vegetables.
- Blend your own pasta sauce with no salt added. You can use crushed tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and whichever other vegetables you like (add fresh basil for additional flavor).
- Put your usual tuna sandwich on slices of lettuce instead of bread.
- Try to include more beets in your diet
As we have learned thus far, incorporating more vegetables is beneficial in helping lower blood pressure. Vegetables that are higher in nitrates can also be helpful in lowering blood pressure. Vegetables that contain the highest amounts of nitrates include beets, spinach, arugula, lettuce, chervil, and collard greens.
Easily incorporate more nitrites into your diet by adding beets to an arugula salad topped with goat cheese, or even try it in a smoothie with frozen berries, yogurt, and milk. You can also roast beets in the oven to switch up your usual side vegetable.
If not properly managed, hypertension can lead to irreversible damage. For more customized health solutions, or for additional support to help you sustain diet changes, call our 360Care line to learn more about our program and how you can get set up with a registered nurse or dietitian.
By incorporating some of the strategies included in this post – increasing your daily intake of vegetables, replacing high sodium pre-packaged foods, and incorporating more vegetables (including those rich in nitrates) – you will be well on your way to controlling your blood pressure naturally.
360Care by Ellerca Health seeks to empower individuals to regain control of their health. We believe that with the right support and motivation, anyone can make and maintain the lifestyle changes necessary to live a happy and healthy life.
By using 360Care through your mobile device, you’ll have access to a team of health professionals (nurses, dieticians, diabetes educators, psychologists, and coaches) and your own personalized health plan, all dedicated to helping you reach your health goals.
From feeling better, relieving symptoms, and improving your quality of life, 360Care can help you to live your best life.