About 50 million people in the US have hypertension. One of the primary contributors to high blood pressure can be found in the foods that most people eat on a daily basis. Making healthy food choices and exercising regularly are a large part of fighting high blood pressure. Hypertension (or high blood pressure in layman terms) can be very dangerous, and there are few symptoms.
The pressure within the blood vessels rises causing the heart to overwork. This can place a strain on the cardiovascular system. There are several contributing factors to this disease, but there are also things that can be done to prevent high blood pressure. A family history of hypertension and certain prescription medications can cause high blood pressure, but eating an unhealthy diet, inactivity, stress, and obesity all play a part as well. The force of blood flow exerted on the artery walls is the actual blood pressure. It is measured by taking a reading of two different pressures though. The systolic reading is the pressure when the heart is pumping the blood and diastolic reading is the pressure of blood between heart beats. Blood pressure above 140 over 90 is considered hypertension per the American Heart Association.
Here are some things to avoid that may help reduce the risk of hypertension:
- Avoid salt. It causes the body to retain water which places more pressure on the heart. Those who have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure should limit daily salt intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day or less. Canned and instant soups are high in salt, so do your best to avoid them. The lower sodium ones are still pretty salty, but as long as you are monitoring your salt intake, these are a good alternative. Processed lunch meats will frequently have high amounts of salt to increase water weight for selling purposes and as a means of keeping it preserved. Frozen foods or meals are also guilty of the same crime. Foods in “sauce” can be high in salt and fat, and be sure to watch out for high sodium in store bought seasonings as well.
- Take a detour from foods high in saturated fats or trans fat; they can add to high blood pressure’s symptoms. Fried foods, whole milk products, shortening, butter and fast foods should be eaten sparingly or not at all. Fast food is not only some of the lowest quality ingredients that you can out into your body, but the salt, preservatives, and trans fats are dangerously high. If you get put into a situation where you have no other choice except to eat fast food, try to stick to salads, grilled chicken, and drink water instead of soda (pop, soda pop, soft drink).
- All yogurts are not created equal. Look for low or non-fat yogurts. They even sell organic yogurt, which will be GMO free and generally speaking, will be a healthier yogurt option. Give plain yogurt a try and add fresh fruit or granola to it. Processed cheese or cheese products can often translate into quite a bit of salt and fat (and other issues). Some don’t even actually contain any real cheese! Be sure to read the food label for the content in dairy products. Enjoy your cheddar in moderation though.
- Ah sugar, sugar. In the United States, the average person eats about 240 pounds of sugar annually. Excess sugar equals weight gain, which can raise blood pressure, especially in those who are already obese. Honey can be a healthier alternative sweetener, and one of the fast growing natural sweeteners on the market right now is Stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from a root, and should replace Nutra Sweet, Splenda, and Sweet-N-Low.
- Alcohol can directly raise blood pressure and damage blood vessel walls and that can in turn increase blood pressure even more. Too much alcohol can also result in weight gain. Some blood pressure medications can have an increase in side effects when alcohol is consumed as well as interfere with the medication.
The risk for high blood pressure, the silent killer, can be reduced by making healthy nutritious food choices. The more processed a food is, the more likely the salt content will be high. Look for healthier ways to prepare favorite dishes. Use alternative ingredients like spices or herbs. Bake instead of fry. Read food labels carefully for sodium content. Check restaurant food ingredients with convenient apps or online tools, and try to plan meals ahead of time so that you don’t get stuck having to buy fast food.
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