If you, a family member or a friend has high blood pressure and want to lower it, here are some effective strategies:
Eat a healthy diet. Study results indicate that elevated blood pressure can be lowered by eating a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages.
Reduce salt and sodium in your diet. A key to healthy eating is choosing foods lower in salt and sodium. Most Americans consume more salt than they need. The current recommendation is to consume less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day. The 6 grams includes ALL salt and sodium consumed, such as that used in cooking and at the table.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, blood pressure rises as body weight increases. Losing even 10 pounds can lower blood pressure, particularly in individuals who are overweight and already have hypertension.
Be physically active. Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. Physical activity also reduces your risk of heart disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and harm the liver, brain and heart. Drinking alcohol quickly adds empty calories, which will make it difficult if you are trying to lose weight. If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit the amount (1 drink a day for women and 2 for men).
Increase potassium intake. Research shows that potassium lowers blood pressure. Studies do not indicate that calcium and magnesium supplements prevent high blood pressure. Be sure to eat a potassium-rich diet. Some good sources of potassium are various fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and fish. The amounts of potassium in various foods are provided below:
Format: Food, Serving Size, Potassium (mg)
Apricots, dried, 10 halves: 407
Avocados, raw, 1 ounce: 180
Bananas, raw, 1 cup: 594
Beets, cooked, 1 cup 519
Brussel sprouts, cooked, 1 cup: 504
Cantaloupe, 1 cup: 494
Dates, dry, 5 dates: 271
Figs, dry, 2 figs: 271
Kiwi fruit, raw, 1 medium: 252
Honeydew, 1 cup: 461
Lima beans, 1 cup: 955
Milk, nonfat, 1 cup: 407
Nectarines, 1 nectarine: 288
Orange juice, 1 cup: 496
Oranges, 1 orange: 237
Pears, 1 pear: 208
Peanuts, dry roasted, without salt, 1 ounce: 187
Potatoes, baked, flesh and skin, 1 potato: 1081
Prune juice, 1 cup: 707
Prunes, dried, 1 cup: 828
Raisins, 1 cup: 1089
Spinach, cooked, 1 cup: 839
Tomato sauce, canned, 1 cup: 909
Winter squash, 1 cup, 896
Yogurt, plain, nonfat, 8 ounces, 579
Values were obtained from the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard References, Release 15 for Potassium, K (mg) content of selected foods per common measure: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR15/wtrank/wt_rank.html