Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements, the systolic and diastolic pressures, which are the maximum and minimum pressures, respectively, in the arterial system. The systolic pressure occurs when the left ventricle is most contracted; the diastolic pressure occurs when the left ventricle is most relaxed prior to the next contraction.
Hypertension usually does not cause symptoms initially, but sustained hypertension over time is a major risk factor for hypertensive heart disease, coronary artery disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, peripheral artery disease, and chronic kidney disease.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure control and decrease the risk of health complications, although treatment with medication is still often necessary in people for whom lifestyle changes are not enough or not effective.
In addition to following the American Heart Association’s (AHA) heart healthy diet recommendations (low-fat, high fiber diet with fruits and vegetables and plant-based protein), the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet emphasizes a low sodium diet with adequate amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. This plan has been shown to lower blood pressure in as quickly as two weeks. Following this plan may also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Nutrition for low blood pressure
Dietary guidelines for hypertension
- 1500mg sodium [The AHA recommends this amount of sodium for ALL individuals]
- 4700mg potassium
- 1250mg calcium
- 500mg magnesium
How to lower sodium intake to control low bloodpressure
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks
- Cook from scratch and freeze leftovers
- Don’t add salt to your food
- Eat out less often; ask servers how the food is prepared and ask for sauce on the side and/or no salt added
- Go easy on the condiments
- Rinse canned beans well
- Choose frozen/fresh over canned vegetables
- Limit frozen dinners or if you do have one on occasion, look for ones with less than 600mg sodium
- Read labels: aim for foods with no more than 300mg per serving (less than 150mg is even better)
Reducing your sodium intake is extremely important to lowering blood pressure, but the following nutrients have also been shown to play a role. Focus on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily (5 to 9 servings per day) as well as the other nutrient-dense foods below.
Potassium rich foods: potatoes, banana, soybeans, apricots, sweet potato, lentils, spinach, zucchini, almonds, kidney beans, oranges, fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, fish, wheat germ.
Magnesium rich foods: halibut, almonds, cashews, soybeans, spinach, whole wheat products, shredded wheat cereal, oatmeal, potatoes, peanuts, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, low-fat yogurt, brown rice, lentils, avocado, kidney beans, wheat germ, banana, sunflower seeds, flaxseed.
Calcium rich foods: fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, collard greens, black strap molasses, calcium-fortified orange juice, turnip greens, tofu, tempeh, kale, soybeans, okra, bok choy, broccoli, tahini, almonds, fortified soy milk, wheat germ.