While the words “blood pressure-lowering diet” may conjure images of unseasoned egg whites and limp steamed veggies, getting your blood pressure into a healthy range is more than just doable —it can be downright delicious. Start by adding the Eat This, Not That!-approved list of blood pressure-lowering foods into your regular routine and watch your numbers go from scary to stellar in no time.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg. The top, systolic, number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom, diastolic, number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. If you’re an adult and your systolic pressure is 120 to 139, or your diastolic pressure is 80 to 89 (or both), you have pre-hypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.
Primary (or essential) hypertension is when the cause is unknown. The majority of hypertension cases are primary. When there is an underlying problem such as kidney disease or hormonal disorders that can cause hypertension, it is called secondary hypertension. When it is possible to correct the underlying cause, high blood pressure usually improves and may even return to normal.
A little tomato on your menu could be the key to healthier blood pressure. In addition to boasting plenty of vitamin C and quercetin, tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have linked to significant reductions in blood pressure. Just don’t try to get your fix from ketchup or bottled tomato sauce; the combination of sugar and salt in most recipes can send your blood sugar through the roof.
7. Visit your chiropractor. A special chiropractic adjustment could significantly lower high blood pressure, a placebo-controlled study suggests. “This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood–pressure medications given in combination,” study leader George Bakris, MD, told WebMD. Your chiropractor can create an effective protocol that helps normalize blood pressure without medication or other invasive procedures.
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How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
Kiwis are another fruit that positively impacts blood pressure. Some researchers studied how the fruit fares compared to apples. They found that eating three kiwis a day over eight weeks reduced blood pressure in people with slightly high blood pressure more so than eating one apple per day during the same time. A daily serving of kiwi was also found to reduce blood pressure in people with only mildly elevated levels. Kiwis are also an excellent source of vitamin C which can also also improve blood pressure.
The kidneys produce renin when they detect low blood pressure. Renin stimulates the production of angiotensin I, a protein which is converted to angiotensin II by angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in the lungs. Angiotensin II is a powerful constrictor of blood vessels, and constricting blood vessels increases blood pressure. Angiotensin II also causes the secretion of an additional blood pressure elevating hormone in the adrenal glands called aldosterone, which helps the body retain sodium. Aliskiren blocks the effects of renin and angiotensin so that blood pressure does not increase.
A blood pressure reading measures both the systolic and diastolic forces, with the systolic pressure listed first. The numbers show your pressure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—how high the pressure inside your arteries would be able to raise a column of mercury. For example, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg means a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg.