Lifestyle Changes to Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

If the new blood pressure recommendations that came out have you rethinking your blood pressure health – well your not the only one. My fiance tends to fluctuate between 120/80 to 130/80 when we go to the grocery store but his doctor has always said its ok. Not that I wasn’t concerned before but now we are taking it more seriously. Since I was brushing up I figured I’d share with everyone. I’ve provided 10 lifestyle changes you could start below that are research based and have shown to provide modest to significant improvements in blood pressure.

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  1. Decrease your salt intake. Almost everyone has heard this before right, but it is important. To lower overall salt intake the best rule of thumb is to avoid eating out often and pay attention to the salt content of any foods that comes in a package. The diagram below from the Dietary Guidelines of Americans gives a good picture of where to start. It is rare that we add enough salt to our own foods while cooking or at the table but a good rule of thumb if you are cooking at home is that 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt equals 600 mg of sodium. The recommended amounts of sodium per day to decrease blood pressure to start is 2400 mg.  Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 6.08.01 PM
  2. Replace the salt with a salt substitute. Mrs. Dash is very popular but there are many others on the market. Dulse, a type of seaweed, is also another popular option that can be used to season foods in place of soy sauce or salt.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.57.29 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.58.17 PM
  3. Increase your potassium intake. Potassium is a nutrient of concern in the American Diet meaning we don’t eat enough of it. A diet rich in potassium reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease and can help balance a high intake of sodium for those who have hypertension. Increase your potassium intake by eating more fruits and vegetables. Foods high in potassium include but are not limited to baked potatoes, lima beans, greens, squash, bananas, carrots, milk, quinoa, and grapes. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.29 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.06 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.56 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.41.14 PM
  4. Include nitrates in your diet. Nitrates when digested convert to nitric oxide which has been shown to dilate blood vessels which improves blood flow and decreases blood pressure. Foods high in nitrates are beets, beet juice, leafy greens, rhubarb, broccoli, and potatoes.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.44.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.43.51 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.44.47 PM
  5. Include polyphenols in your diet. Polyphenols are considered a plant phytochemical that have antioxidant properties which helps to reduce inflammation and provides other health benefits throughout your body. To increase your polyphenols increase your intake of dark leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and green and black tea. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.47.40 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.47.57 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.48.15 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.48.56 PM
  6. There is strong evidence that calcium supplements can help lower blood pressure.  As a nutritionist I would recommend trying to incorporate eating the foods first. Including low fat dairy like low fat milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, soy milk, or dark leafy greens like kale can increase your daily intake of calcium. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.50 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.22 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.03 PMYou also need Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium so including that in your diet also or taking a vitamin D supplement with calcium is important. Vitamin D rich foods to include are cheese, eggs, salmon, shiitake mushroom, and fortified foods like orange juice, cereal, and milk. Always make sure any supplements are not contraindicated with other medications you take.               Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.53.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.53.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.54.04 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.54.18 PM
  7. The research is limited but garlic may help those with hypertension lower their blood pressure. They believe this is due to the antioxidant in garlic called allicin. As always you can start just by including garlic in your diet by simply adding it as a seasoning to dishes. There is also some evidenScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.59.13 PM.pngce that garlic supplements may help decrease blood pressure. Intake 2-5 milligrams of allicin is needed for desired blood pressure effects. This can be achieved through 2-5 grams of fresh garlic, .4-1.2 grams of dried garlic powder, and 300-1000 milligrams of garlic extract. Always make sure any supplements are not contraindicated with other medications you take.
  8. Increase your exercise. Shoot for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day with your doctors permission. This not only benefits hypertension but all heart health related factors and can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
  9. If weight loss has been a health goal it can also benefit your blood pressure. Studies have shown that losing weight can significantly lower your overall blood pressure. Talk to your local nutritionist about lifestyle changes that may help you achieve your weight goals.
  10. If you are looking to totally overhaul your current diet. Talk to a local nutritionist about total diets that have shown significant improvements in lowering blood pressure like the DASH diet, Mediterranean-style diet, or vegetarian diet.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.02.28 PM.pngOK, so I hope you find something you can fit into your lifestyle and feel free to share in the comments any salt substitutes you love to use when cooking at home!

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