Often known as the “silent killer” since there is a lack of apparent symptoms, high blood pressure can have serious unfavorable health effects. Hypertension, a form of high blood pressure, is the most common risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the United States, affecting one in three adults. The American Heart Association estimates that over 43 million Americans have high blood pressure, while only 10 million are managing it correctly. Lifestyle factors such as getting enough exercise, not smoking, and eating a balanced diet can help lower your blood pressure, but certain foods and nutrients can have shown larger effects than others in clinical studies. Reducing your sodium (i.e., salt) intake is a primary strategy to reduce blood pressure, but there are other foods and nutrients that may also have long-lasting effects. Here are 5 foods and/or ingredients that may help lower your blood pressure.
1. Consuming fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, and tuna at least twice a week helps prevent inflammation, which can cause damage to blood vessels.
2. Grape seed extract, widely available in supplemental form, has been shown to help stimulate nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax and allow for healthier blood flow.
3. Potatoes are the number one source of potassium in the diet. Consuming enough potassium helps to offset the negative effects of sodium. A baked potato with salsa is a great low calorie way to combat the hidden sodium in our food.
4. Cocoa contains powerful antioxidants known as “flavanols” that have been shown to benefit the elasticity of blood vessels. The higher percent cocoa, the better the chocolate! Just one to two ounces of dark chocolate per day has been shown to be heart healthy. The more darker chocolates also have less fat and added sugar.
5. Olive oil has been commonly known to help prevent hardening of arteries because it contains “healthy fats” that can easily be used to replace saturated fats when preparing food.