Managing high blood pressure can feel like an uphill battle – even feeling stressed before you have your blood pressure taken can elevate it.
With certain lifestyle modifications, you may be able to rely less on blood pressure medications. Making lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, reducing stress levels, and eating healthier foods will all help improve your blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?
When we get our blood pressure taken, the measurement helps us to establish how much blood passes through our blood vessels and how much resistance it is met with. When the force of blood pushing through the vessels is too high for too long, high blood pressure or hypertension occurs.
Certain statistical elements impact each person’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure, such as genetics, age, race, weight, alcohol intake, diet and salt intake. For example, those over 65 years old, black non-Hispanic people, obese people, and those who drink heavily are far more likely to be at risk of hypertension.
High blood pressure rarely comes with noticeable symptoms, but if you leave it untreated, it will put you at risk of more serious health issues like heart attacks and a stroke.
Top 5 Foods That Help Lower Blood Pressure
1. Citrus fruits: Acidic fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, and lemons can have powerful blood pressure-lowering properties. They also contain vitamins and minerals that keep the heart and immune system as healthy as possible.
One study of 101 Japanese women found that drinking lemon juice and walking every day linked with reductions in systolic blood pressure (SBP). Researchers attributed this result to the flavonoid and citric acid in lemons.
If you’re not a fan of eating citrus fruits, you can add lemon or lime juice to your water and still get many of the health benefits of eating citrus fruit. Try to avoid drinking pure fruit juice in large quantities due to the high quantity of sugar they contain.
2. Fatty fish: Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon are all great sources of omega 3, which is known for heart health properties. These healthy fats can reduce blood pressure by lowering inflammation and blood vessel constricting compounds. With a less constricted blood vessel, the blood can flow more freely and less pressure is put on the heart.
If you don’t eat fish, there are supplements you can take if you want to get your daily dose of omega 3.
3. Carrots: This vegetable contains phenolic compounds including chlorogenic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids, which can relax blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which, in turn, can lower blood pressure. Studies have found that carrots are at their most nutritious and beneficial when eaten raw or in a juice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them boiled, roasted, or stir-fried and get many of the benefits.
4. Swiss Chard: This leafy green is packed with blood pressure-regulating nutrients, particularly potassium and magnesium. Just one cup of cooked Swiss chard provides 17% of your daily potassium and 30% of your daily magnesium needs.
Magnesium is particularly helpful for those with high blood pressure because it acts as a calcium channel blocker. This blocks the movement of calcium towards and into the heart and arterial cells, so the blood vessels aren’t under as much strain.
Try it fried with some garlic and lemon juice as a delicious side for almost any meal.
5. Berries: Have you ever wondered why so many berries boast a vivid red, purple, or blue color? They’re rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins – the pigments that create the vibrant hue. The anthocyanins increase the blood’s nitric oxide levels and decrease the production of blood-vessel-restricting molecules, reducing blood pressure levels.
These tasty fruits have a variety of other health benefits including those to reduce heart disease risk factors. The best part is that you can enjoy them on their own, in desserts, or as a healthy snack with some yogurt.
Focus on Your Fruit & Veg Intake
Other foods known to promote healthy blood pressure include beets, tomatoes, chia and flax seeds, broccoli, pistachios, beans, and lentils. Herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, saffron, lemongrass, cardamom, black cumin, ginseng, and sweet basil also show blood pressure-lowering potential.
Don’t Rely Solely on Your Meds (But Speak to Your Doctor)
When it comes to blood pressure, it’s important to focus on healthy lifestyle changes to improve your health over the long term. While there are many blood pressure lowering drugs available, they aren’t a cure. If you continue to live in a way that gave you high blood pressure in the first place, the medication and those bad habits are going to constantly be battling it out in your body.
Many blood pressure medications also come with some significant potential side effects, such as dizziness and fatigue. Medicine and food are not one-size-fits-all situations; each person’s internal make-up is just as unique as their exterior, so it’s important to treat each case independently. Start making small changes in your diet, moving towards whole, untouched and unprocessed foods, you may be surprised how much your blood pressure can improve.
Whenever you’re considering making a change to your lifestyle while on medication, make sure you speak to your doctor to let them know what changes you plan to make so they can monitor your blood pressure and make changes to your medication accordingly as your lifestyle changes help to lower your blood pressure.
Remember that diet is just one part of adjusting your lifestyle to maintain optimum blood pressure levels. Other factors like maintaining a healthy weight, moderating your alcohol intake, and staying active can all help towards a blood pressure measurement. Not only are these practices important for your blood pressure levels, but they’re also important for your cardiovascular health, liver function, cholesterol levels, and even your mental health.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure, speak to your doctor and they’ll help you to put a health plan in place.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.