High blood pressure is a chronic condition where the force of blood against your artery walls is high enough to cause damage to your blood vessels and potentially lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke. About 32 percent of adults in the U.S. have hypertension.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be detected with a simple check-up at your doctor’s office and that there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to help drive down dangerous numbers.
From a lifestyle perspective, there are a few obvious ways to drive down your numbers, which include:
- Minimize salt
- Incorporate foods rich in potassium
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight — even losing just five pounds can lower your blood pressure
- Exercise regularly
- Limit alcohol (one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men)
- Don’t smoke (tobacco harms the walls of blood vessels and can speed up the process of arteries hardening)
But if you're looking for some more concrete ways to incorporate a healthier attitude into your everyday life, I've got specific ideas.
1) Swap a classic PB&J sandwich for a PB & sliced banana sandwich.
Bananas provide potassium (about 467 mg per banana), a mineral that has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Jelly provides little fruit and way too much sugar.
We already know that most Americans consume too much sodium. However, few people know that getting enough potassium can blunt the effect of excess salt and can help lower blood pressure — the evidence is very strong and consistent. Potassium doesn’t just lower blood pressure, it may also make blood vessels less stiff, so they expand as the heart pumps blood through them.
2) Swap a hot dog with sauerkraut, relish and mustard (salt on salt!) for a burger with lettuce, tomato and onion with a squirt of ketchup (hold the pickles!).
When it comes to sodium, the hotdog just doesn't make the cut. The hot dog's sodium total is 1,425 mg, and the burger's sodium total is 684 mg sodium.
High salt diets have long been shown to be associated with high blood pressure. Also, a multitude of studies have shown that the DASH diet (which limits sodium) can have a significant effect on lowering blood pressure.
3) In oatmeal, slash the brown sugar in half and add cocoa powder.
Cocoa powder contains flavanols, which can benefit blood vessels and pressure. Scientists have discovered that the antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve the elasticity of blood vessels. Plus, the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids!