High blood pressure is a common and dangerous health problem. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, so it’s important to keep it in check.
When you go to the doctor, they measure blood pressure by pumping up a cuff and checking two numbers: systolic and diastolic blood pressure. If they say your blood pressure is 120/80, the systolic number is the top and the diastolic is the bottom.
Systolic blood pressure is the most important for health. Ideally, yours should be under 120. Between 120-129 is a cautionary zone where you don’t necessarily need to take action to lower your blood pressure. Anything above 130 becomes increasingly dangerous.
There are ways to lower your blood pressure, including exercise and stress management. Diet is a more contentious area because it’s not easy to figure out what foods can cause high blood pressure. However, researchers are becoming increasingly confident in something called the DASH (dietary approach to stop hypertension) diet.
The DASH diet is fairly simple. You should:
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Eat fish, poultry, nuts, vegetable oils, and beans
- Eat less saturated fat (which comes from red meat, coconut oil, full-fat dairy products, and palm oil)
- Eat less sugary drinks and foods
- Eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (ideally only 1,500)
While it might seem simple, this approach is proven to be more effective than any other in terms of lowering blood pressure. Try to eat your foods in the order of the list above. So, prioritize fruits, veggies, and grains over meat, nuts, and fish. As you go down the list, you should have fewer and fewer of each type of food.
The only thing that might be difficult is limiting your sodium intake. You can use nutrition labels to calculate how much you’re having, but when you eat at a restaurant it can be next to impossible to know how much salt they add. Try to eat at home as much as possible, and have the chef cut back on the salt or leave it out of your portion of the meal.