If you’re among the one in three people with hypertension, it’s good to know that several relatively simple dietary changes can help to improve your numbers. As well as the usual heart-friendly advice about not smoking, exercising regularly, losing excess weight, eating at least 5-a-day fruit and veg, and keeping your alcohol intake within recommended limits, try the following tips from Medical Nutritionist, Dr Sarah Brewer.
1. Follow the DASH Diet
The Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet is based around the healthy Mediterranean way of eating and includes olive oil, garlic, fruit, vegetables, nuts and low-fat dairy products. Protein is provided by fish and chicken rather than red meat, and intakes of salt, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and refined carbohydrates are reduced. Following the DASH diet with the lowest sodium intake can lower blood pressure by as much as 11.5/5.7 mmHg within just 30 days. Click here to find out how to follow it.
2. Eat Flaxseed
Eating 30g of ground flaxseed per day, sprinkled over food or added to smoothies, was found to lower blood pressure by 10/7 mmHg in a six month trial that compared it with inactive placebo – and that was in people with established hardening of the arteries. In those who also had hypertension at the start of the trial blood pressure improvements were even greater at 15/7 mmHg in those taking flaxseed. The researchers concluded that flaxseed produced one of the most powerful antihypertensive effects ever seen from a single food alone! Read more here.
3. Drink Beetroot Juice
Beetroot contains substances known as nitrates which are converted into nitrites and absorbed into your circulation to make nitric oxide – one of the most powerful blood vessel dilating substances know. Drinking 250ml beetroot juice a day, or eating 100g cooked beetroot, can lower your blood pressure by 7.7/5.2mmHg – better than some antihypertensive drugs. Find out more here.
4. Eat Fewer Potatoes
If you eat four or more servings of potatoes per week, your risk of having hypertension is significantly increased. Eating baked, boiled or mashed potatoes four or more times a week was associated with an 11% greater risk, while eating French fries was associated with a 17% greater risk compared to those who ate less than one serving of these per month. The most likely reason is that potato starch increases blood glucose levels after eating. Switch to sweet potatoes instead which have much less effect on blood glucose levels and offer other health benefits. Click to find out more here.
5. Switch to Grana Padano Cheese
Grana padano is a hard Italian cheese similar to Parmesan. The particular strain of probiotic bacteria used in its manufacture releases substances that act in a similar way to a class of antihypertensive drugs called ACE inhibitors. Eating 30g Grana Padano per day is not only a delicious treat, but can lower your blood pressure by 12/8 mmHg within two months. Find out more here.
6. Eat More Yogurt
Studies involving over 275,000 nurses and 50,000 male health professionals found that those who ate yogurt at least five times a week were around a quarter less likely to develop high blood pressure than those eating the least. Click to read more.
7. Drink Coconut Water
Coconut water is an excellent source of blood-pressure lowering electrolytes such as calcium and magnesium. Drinking coconut water daily, for two weeks, can significantly lower blood pressure compared with drinking plain bottled water, with reductions of as much as 24/15 mmHg in some cases. Check labels, though, and avoid sweetened coconut water with added sugar – go pure! Read more here.
8. Discover Black Garlic
Eating two or three fresh garlic cloves every day may not win you many friends, but could lower your blood pressure enough to cut your risk of a heart attack or stroke by up to 40%. Aged garlic extracts – known as black garlic – have a kinder effect on your breath, and can lower blood pressure by an average of 6.71/4.79 mmHg, compared to placebo. Click here to find out more.
9. Drink Cherry Juice
Montmorency cherry juice received a lot of publicity when it was found to promote sleep due to the presence of natural melatonin. Now, studies show that tart cherry juice (60 ml concentrate diluted with water) can reduce systolic blood pressure (the upper reading) by 7mmHg, with the effect occurring within one hour and lasting for at least 8 hours. Read more here.
10. Take Vitamin D Supplements
At this time of the year, vitamin D levels start to plummet in northern latitudes when the UV index is less than 3. Vitamin D interacts with nitric oxide in the body to promote dilation of blood vessels. Researchers have found that a moderate dose of vitamin D (between 1000 iu and 4000 iu) contributes to a lower blood pressure, but different people need different doses to achieve these benefits. Click to read more.
Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure? Is it well controlled? Let me know what approaches you’ve found helpful in bringing it down.
Dr Sarah Brewer is a medical nutritionist, nutritional therapist and the author of over 60 popular health books. Follow her Nutritional Medicine blog at www.DrSarahBrewer.com, her blood pressure advice at www.MyLowerBloodPressure.com and her health product reviews at www.ExpertHealthReviews.com. For nutrition and recipe tweets follow @DrSarahB and for general health and fitness tweets follow @DrSarahBHealthy.