High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious and common condition that can lead to life-threatening diseases such as heart attack, stroke, heart or kidney failure, and more. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers: the top number is the systolic pressure (when the heart is pumping blood) and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure (when the heart is at rest). A normal blood pressure number is below 120/80, prehypertension is diagnosed between 120/80 – 139/89, Stage 1 hypertension is between 140/90 – 159/99, and Stage 2 hypertension is blood pressure above 160/100.
Most doctors prescribe drug treatment when a patient has reached the prehypertension stage. Much like high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure (even in the prehypertension stage) is a sure sign of other problems going on in the body. However, by addressing underlying issues with diet and lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure without resorting to drug treatment.
Here are some tips to get you started on the path to lower blood pressure:
- Reduce excessive carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs and sugars.
- One of the most significant contributors to high blood pressure is high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Chronically high blood sugar, hyperinsulinemia, and high triglycerides are far more common in individuals with hypertension than those with normal blood pressure, and one of the major contributors to all three of these conditions is an excess intake of carbohydrate, particularly refined grains and sugars.
- Excess intake of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks has been shown to directly influence blood pressure.
- Increase intake of beneficial minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
- Focusing on eating foods rich in other macrominerals is more beneficial than strictly focusing on avoiding sodium. More important than overall sodium intake is the sodium-to-potassium ratio.
- Don’t go too low carb when reducing your carbohydrate intake – many of the best sources of potassium and magnesium are starchy vegetables like white and sweet potatoes or fruits like plantains and bananas.
- Eat more fatty fish.
- Fatty fish is high in essential omega-3 fats, and these fats have been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events in multiple studies.
- Eating 16 ounces a week of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, halibut, and mackerel is an important dietary strategy for reducing both high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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