One in three American adults has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. High blood pressure happens when the blood pressure along the artery walls is too high. When high blood pressure occurs, the heart and blood vessels experience extra strain. This makes you more susceptible to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and even dementia (1, 2). That’s because high blood pressure can cause arteries in the brain to clog and sometimes burst.
High blood pressure is a silent ailment, as there are no symptoms or warning signs. That is why it is important to stay on top of your health and have your blood pressure checked regularly. Make sure to always check blood pressure levels if you are not sure about your levels. Knowing your numbers is a great place to start.
The good news is you can make easy lifestyle changes right now to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, which often leads to a heart attack or stroke. Some of the most common ways to reduce high blood pressure are to maintain a healthy weight through diet and regular exercise and to get enough sleep each day. Some other ways include reducing chronic stress levels, and through medications prescribed by your doctor. There is growing evidence that chronic psychosocial stress levels can contribute to high blood pressure (3). Chronic psychosocial stress can develop from many factors. These can include job stress, relationships like marital stress, environmental factors, and social isolation.
Eating certain healthy nutrient-dense foods like the ones on the list below will help maintain a healthy blood pressure range so you can live a longer and healthier life. Food is just one factor in maintaining healthy blood pressure, but it is a great, effective place to start.
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Foods that lower blood pressure
You can maintain healthy blood pressure without taking medication. Check out which foods can help to lower blood pressure naturally and see if you can start eating some of these nutritional foods today.
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is the perfect snack for a wide range of diets. It is high in powerful heart-healthy antioxidants, so it is a great choice to help lower blood pressure. Try to eat dark chocolate that is at 50 percent dark or higher for the most health benefits. Also, be cautious about added sugar and unnecessary ingredients like high fructose corn syrup that can sneak into a lot of dark chocolate snacks.
Bananas are rich in potassium, so they are a natural choice for food to lower blood pressure. Potassium helps to balance salt on the body, helping the kidneys and heart function correctly. Bananas are one of the easiest fruits to eat and add to many different meals for quick dishes. Add some heart-healthy and potassium-rich bananas to cereal, oatmeal, or even your favorite smoothie for a new flavor and nutritional boost.
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are high in probiotics, which help to create more good bacteria in the gut microbiome. They also can lower blood pressure because they have anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as anti-atherosclerotic activity (4). This means they can lower build up on the arteries, which can improve blood pressure. Fermented foods are also highly anti-fungal and anti-microbial.
The high dose of probiotics from fermented foods benefits gut bacteria and overall health, too. More than 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut microbiome, so it is beneficial to incorporate fermented foods in your diet for optimal immune function. You can ferment many different types of foods, like onions, for example. Foods that are already fermented include pickles, yogurt, tempeh, miso soup, kombucha, and more.
Beets are a natural blood cleaning root vegetable, so it is no surprise that they can help to lower blood pressure in the body. High blood pressure starts when there is too much force along the artery walls. Beets help to diminish the pressure built up because they are naturally high in powerful nutrients such as essential B vitamins and much more. This naturally sweet vegetable can be a mighty force to improve blood flow in the body.
Garlic is a potent anti-inflammatory spice or herb that can help to lower blood pressure and the risk of many common chronic diseases. Although garlic may seem like a vegetable, it’s usually in many recipes as a spice or herb. Garlic is often the primary spice in many dishes for its strong flavor, so it is usually only necessary to add a little to each meal. Add in some beneficial garlic to your next meal for more flavor and a nutritional boost.
6. Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are a great food to add to your diet if you suffer from high blood pressure or want to avoid it. Green vegetables are high in nitrates, and in general, are a good place to start, but for the most potent effect, choose leafy green vegetables.
These include kale, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, and swiss chard. Avoid spinach is you suffer from kidney stones or disease, as it can cause further issues downstream.
7. High-Flavonoid Fruits
Berries, apples, pomegranates, kiwi, and citrus fruits, and fruit juices are among the top foods to eat to help lower blood pressure. These fruits are extremely high in nutrients great for heart health. Citrus fruits and a few on this list are extremely high in beneficial flavonoids, which studies show help to lower the risk of blood pressure, and they can even lower the blood pressure of those at risk already (5).
Add in some of these delicious and beneficial fruits to your diet to lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and much more.
Trying to eat protein from plants? Lentils are a wonderful place to start. They are a popular plant-based protein complete with all nine essential amino acids that the body needs, like meat. Lentils can lower the risk of high blood pressure partially due to their high nutrient profile. They are also extremely hearty, filling, and satisfying due to their high fiber content.
Since lentils are remarkably high in insoluble fiber, they can help to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure levels in the body. Add in a meatless Monday for a chance to try out some nutrient-dense lentils. All you need to do is soak the lentils and cook them in a pot for about 20-30 minutes depending on the type.
One study shows the intake of cinnamon on those with high blood pressure had notable results of decline. It also shows a significant decline in those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (6). Cinnamon is a powerful spice that is widely in teas and coffees. It has powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, as it is full of heart-healthy antioxidants. It is a common spice among many cultures for its rich nutritional and medicinal effects.
High blood pressure is a common disease that can go unnoticed for too long. Make sure to check in with your doctor if you think you may have high blood pressure, as there are no signs or symptoms. High blood pressure can lead to serious diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and the brain. Always be cautious about the kinds of food you eat and try to monitor foods that cause high blood pressure like fried or processed foods, refined carbohydrates, excess sugar, baked goods, and fast food.
Keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep each night is a good place to start. It is also a good idea to monitor your stress levels each day, especially if you are prone to chronic stress or anxiety. Chronic stress can also lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure.
If you are having a hard time starting a healthier diet or finding the right exercise regimen for you, reach out to a nutritionist or health coach for assistance. They can help you find a system that works for your needs without feeling sore all the time after workouts, or low on energy after meals. Everyone is different in how their bodies react to certain foods and lifestyles, so a unique approach to wellness can help to accomplish your goals.