Changing Lifestyles, Changing Habits: How to Eat to Lower Your Blood Pressure
A new analysis has shown that more people than ever in this
country have high blood pressure, or hypertension. According to the most recent
study, data gathered from 1999 to 2000 showed that there are now 65 million
hypertensive adults in the US, compared with data from 1988 to 1994, which found
about 50 million adults with hypertension.
Why does this increase matter?
Hypertension is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke,
heart failure and kidney failure. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension,
it’s important to work aggressively to bring your blood pressure down. If your
doctor has prescribed medication for you, take that seriously. Stick with the
drugs, and if for any reason you feel like you don’t want to keep taking your
pills, be sure to talk with your doctor about it. Don’t ever stop medications on
The role of sodium in decreasing high blood pressure
Another part of blood pressure control is a food plan that
limits sodium, or salt. There have been different opinions about whether eating
too much salt actually causes high blood pressure, but many studies have shown
that for people who already do have hypertension, decreasing salt intake is
How much salt should you have each day?
Here are some of the facts:
►The daily recommendation for sodium intake for the average
person is no more than 2,400 milligrams.
►You really only need 500 milligrams to help your
body carry out its basic functions.
►The average American consumes about 3,000 to 5,000
milligrams of salt each day.
►If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have
recommended keeping your daily salt intake under 1,500 milligrams.
Even if your doctor hasn’t given you a precise number,
there’s a good chance you’re getting too much sodium in your daily diet.
What can you do to decrease the salt?
When it comes to the sodium in your diet, it doesn’t all
come from the salt shaker. Most of the salt we get comes from processed
foods—frozen dinners, packaged mixes, instant or flavored rices, pizza and many
Here are examples of foods that have salt added to them
|Canned soups and other canned foods
||850 milligrams per cup
||459 milligrams per ½ cup
|Deli meats per ounce
||Usually more than 300 milligrams
|| 486 milligrams per ounce
||780 milligrams per ½ cup
||304 milligrams per teaspoon
|Dill pickle, one large
||304 milligrams per ounce
And don’t forget the table salt. One teaspoon has 2,358
milligrams. The daily salt recommendation for the average person is no more than
2,400 milligrams, so pay attention to the amount of salt you’re getting from the
salt shaker alone.
Buy food in its natural state
If you want to reduce sodium, buy food that hasn’t had much
done to it, such as
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Frozen vegetables with no salt added
- Poultry, fish and lean meat that isn’t canned or salted
Cooking habits that can help
Besides cutting out snacks and other high-sodium foods,
it’s helpful to make some changes in the way you cook:
- Don’t add salt when you cook rice, pasta, oatmeal, and
other foods. Sometimes we add salt just because we always have. It might not
even make much difference in the taste of your food if you leave some of the
- If you do use canned food, such as tuna, rinse it off
first to remove some of the sodium.
- Experiment with herbs and other types of spices to find
flavors that satisfy you.
- Look for labels that say low- or reduced-sodium, or “no
- Read the labels on breakfast cereals to find the ones
that are lower in sodium.
Get enough potassium
Getting enough potassium can also help you meet your goal
of lowering your blood pressure. Generally, if you’re eating plenty of fresh
fruits and vegetables and strictly limiting foods that are high in sodium,
you’re likely to have a healthier sodium/potassium balance.
The Food and Drug Administration;
August 2004; The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association,
“Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure.”