Nutrition for High Blood Pressure

Blood Presssure in Heart Health ResourcesAt NYCC we see the power of healthy diet and lifestyle in improving and preventing chronic disease.  Our doctors and dietitian work closely with patients to help them make realistic changes in their diet and activity patterns.  Here are some tips to control high blood pressure.

Please note: While these suggestions are generally safe, keep in mind that everyone’s health situation is unique.   Always consult with your primary care physician before making changes to current dietary intake and/or lifestyle.

Healthy Eating and Lifestyle to Control Blood Pressure

 Blood Pressure Combi ImageHigh blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, & other vascular problems.  People who have high blood pressure can take steps to control it & reduce their risks for heart and vascular problems.  While making dietary and lifestyle changes can improve your blood pressure, it is important to keep taking your high blood pressure medication. 

If you want to lower your blood pressure or maintain a healthy blood pressure level follow these five basic recommendations:

  1. Healthy Weight:  Maintain a healthy weight or if you are overweight, work on reducing your weight.
  2. Regular Activity: Aim to do at least 30 min. of activity most days.
  3. Limit Alchohol: If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
  4. Do Not Smoke: If you smoke, try to quit.
  5. Reduce Sodium, Increase Potassum: Limit your intake of foods with added salt and increase your intake of foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium by emphasizing fruits, vegetables, beans, lean dairy products, and whole grains in your diet. 

Here’s some tips to get started on your diet to lower your blood pressure

  • Salt contains sodium and consumption of salty foods increases blood pressure.  Foods rich in potassium help to lower blood pressure.
  • Beware of hidden sodium.  Even if you do not add salt to your foods, your diet may be high in sodium because many packaged foods contain lots of added salt.   Some foods such as soups, breakfast cereals, corn products, canned products, cottage cheese & cheese, and tomato products as well as over-the-counter medicines like antacids can have a lot of sodium in them even though they do not seem to taste very salty.
  • Read food labels to lower your sodium intake.  These list the amount of sodium in one serving of the food.  The % Daily Value (%DV) is the percentage of the daily sodium limit in one serving of the food. 
    • When comparing labels:  If the %DV is less than 10% than the food is not so high in sodium but if it is 25% or more, try to choose a lower sodium option.
  • If you have heart health risk factors, aim to consume less than 1500 mg of sodium each day.  This is less than 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt from all dietary sources.  Keeping sodium this low is very difficult and demands careful label reading and food selection.  If you do not have heart health risk factors, aim to consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium.  This means getting less than 1 teaspoon of salt from all dietary intake per day.  
  • low-sodium bloodpressureFollow these tips to choose foods low in sodium:
    • Choose “low-”or “reduced-sodium”, or “no-salt-added” versions of foods & condiments.  Even when a product is labeled “reduced sodium” it may still be high in sodium.  Check the nutritional label to assess the sodium content.
    • Choose fresh and/or frozen vegetables instead of canned with added sodium.  Many canned vegetables are now available in “low-sodium” or “no-salt-added” formulations.  Choose fresh poultry, fish, & lean meat, and dry beans instead of canned, smoked, preserved, or processed preparations.  Look for canned versions of these items that have been prepared “low-sodium” or “no-salt-added” formulations.
    • Limit cured foods (such as bacon & ham); foods packed in brine (such as pickled vegetables, olives, & sauerkraut); & condiments (mustard, ketchup, & barbecue sauce).  These are all very high in sodium.
    • Try to avoid regular & lower sodium versions of soy sauce & teriyaki sauce.
    • Cook rice, pasta, & hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, & cereal with added sodium.
    • Choose "convenience" foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, & salad dressing, which often have a lot of sodium.
    • Rinse canned foods with added sodium, such as tuna & canned beans, to remove some of the sodium.
    • Flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends. Start by cutting salt in half.
    • Consider replacing your table salt with a no-sodium salt substitute (potassium chloride) or a reduced-sodium salt substitute that is a combination of sodium chloride and potassium chloride.
    • Restaurants and fast food vendors add a lot of sodium to their foods.  To reduce you sodium intake, opt to make your own food rather than eating out.
    • When eating out, ask that foods be prepared without added salt, MSG, or salt-containing ingredients.  Request sauces and dressings be served on the side.
  • dash foods blood pressureFollow these tips to choose foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium:
    • Emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and low-fat/non-fat dairy in your diet.
    • Include fruits or vegetables in nearly every meal or snack.
    • Aim to have 3 servings of fat-free & low-fat dairy per day. If you have trouble digesting milk products, try taking lactase enzyme pills (available at drugstores). Or, buy lactose-free milk or fortified milk substitutes such as enriched lowfat soymilk.  Most people who do not tolerate milk can still digest yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard cheeses.
    • Consider having some vegetarian meals in which beans or soy products substitute for meat.  Good options include meatless chili, soups, casseroles, or tacos.
    • Replace white/refined grain choices with higher potassium whole-grain choices such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread.
    • Use portion-controlled servings of nuts and seeds. These are packed with healthy minerals.
    • Read food labels to choose foods high in calcium. (Potassium & magnesium usually are not listed on labels)
  • Adopt the Dash eating plan.  Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the DASH diet is aimed at lowering blood pressure.  It is low in sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy & other foods high in potassium, magnesium, & calcium.  For detailed information on DASH, go online to: or consult your registered dietitian.

Please note:   While these suggestions are generally safe, keep in mind that everyone’s health situation is unique.   Always consult with your primary care physician before making changes to current dietary
intake and or lifestyle.

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