Blood pressure is the outward force exerted by the flow of blood on the walls of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body. While normal blood pressure oscillates throughout the day, spiking under certain circumstances such as during an adrenaline rush, or lowering to a relative trickle, like during sleep, chronically high blood pressure can cause damage to the heart, to the integrity of arterial walls, and to the circulatory system in general.
High blood pressure often goes by two monikers. The first is "hypertension", which reflects the levels of mechanical stress suffered by arteries and the heart due to chronic high blood pressure. The second is less scientific, but illuminating nonetheless: the Silent Killer. Hypertension, though it is the cause of many conditions and their symptoms, by itself produces no symptoms. Without regular check-ups, hypertension could go unnoticed and unchecked for years.
According to the CDC, 67 million American adults have high blood pressure. That's 31% of the population, or 1 of every 3. High blood pressure costs the country $47.5 billion each year. This number includes the cost of health care service, medication, and missed work days. More than 348,000 deaths in 2009 included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause: that's nearly 1,000 deaths each day.
High blood pressure increases risk for a plethora of health conditions. 7 of every 10 first-time heart attack victims and 8 of every 10 first-time stroke victims have high blood pressure. 70% of patients with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure, and those with high blood pressure are also at major risk for kidney disease.
While the CDC states that it is impossible to control all the risk factors for high blood pressure as some of them may be genetic, there are a number of steps to prevent and control high blood pressure. These include regular exercise, body weight regulation, cutting back on tobacco and moderating alcohol use, and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which consists of a diet low in salt, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. How to achieve such a dietary balance?
The following 7 foods are here to help:
A 2014 DASH report by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, (a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health) demonstrated that vegetables ranging from the leafy kinds, such as spinach, kale and collards, to the cruciform, such as broccoli and cauliflower, to roots such as carrots are rich sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber. These veggies are powerful allies against hypertension, as they contain three of the major elements against high blood pressure in addition to containing low sodium.
A 2011 study conducted at Tulane University demonstrated significant reduction in hypertension and cardiovascular disease associated with increased intake of both animal and vegetable protein.
Vegetables rich in protein include peas, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Animal protein should come from lean meat, fish and poultry only; pare away visible fat and remove the skin from poultry to keep the fat and sodium content down. Fish come with the added benefit of containing omega-fatty acids, which leads us to our next category.
3. Fish Oil
A 2013 study at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia reported that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in fish oils had a positive effect on blood pressure reduction. And while there are risks of ingesting mercury when eating fish, the report claims that mercury is not a contributing factor to hypertension. Fish oil can also be consumed in the form of supplement gel capsules.
The same 2013 study at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia also found that garlic consumption significantly reduced systolic blood pressure (when your heart beats) by 16.3 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (when your heart rests, in between beats) by 9.3 mmHg. Add roasted garlic as a garnish or consume it raw infused in water.
A 2010 study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that flavonoids and anthocyanins, powerfully bioactive compounds found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries, help to reduce blood pressure. Add these berries to your cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal in the morning or keep them frozen for a quick snack.
A 2010 study at Queen Mary University of London found that the nitrate in beets and beetroot juice have a tremendous effect in lowering blood pressure: "We found that only a small amount of juice is needed - just 250 mL - to have this effect, and that the higher the blood pressure at the start of the study the greater the decrease caused by nitrate". Beets can be used in soups, stews, and stir-fries-or you can simply cook and eat the beetroot whole!
The DASH diet recommends plentiful calcium to reduce blood pressure. Stick to fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. They are high in calcium and protein and low in sodium and well, fat.