Nutrition tips for healthy blood pressure


Nancy Teeter, RDN

According to new health statistics nearly half of all adults in the United States have unhealthy blood pressure levels, and this condition is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease-related deaths. Smoking tobacco, being sedentary, drinking too much alcohol, and being overweight all increase the risk of elevated blood pressure. In addition, diet plays a key role in hypertension, and following the DASH* diet is a great starting point for blood pressure management. Two key components of the DASH diet are reducing sodium and increasing potassium.

Research has consistently shown that when people reduce sodium, blood pressure drops. On average, Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Experts suggest that reducing that number to 2,300 milligrams would prevent tens of thousands of heart-attacks and strokes a year.

Use these tips to help reduce your sodium intake.

1. Be a sodium sleuth. Check food labels for sodium content and pick out products with lower levels. Different brands can have widely different sodium levels.

2. Eat less bread and crackers. A one-ounce slice of bread provides about 150 milligrams of sodium, so a sandwich made with two slices provides 300 milligrams —and that’s before the condiments and the cold cuts.

3. Replace cold cuts and cured meats with canned tuna or salmon. Most brands of canned tuna and salmon are low in sodium and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Cut back on condiments. From marinades and salad dressings to ketchups and soy sauce, keep an eye on how much sodium you slather on and pour on.

5. Keep in mind your portion size. Based on the suggested serving size, a product may appear to have a moderate sodium level. However, you need to be mindful of how much you actually consume. One example: two tablespoons of tomato salsa has 200 milligrams of sodium. If your portion is a half-cup, you would consume 800 milligrams.

High potassium foods actually counter the effects of sodium and may help your blood pressure. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you should strive for 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. Beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits are healthy potassium sources. Each of the foods listed below provides at least 20 percent of the daily value of potassium.

*Swiss chard and spinach, 1 cup

*Beans and lentils, 1 cup

*Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, 1 cup

*Soybeans, 1 cup

*Avocado, 1 cup

*Dietary approaches to stop hypertension

Nancy Teeter, a SaddleBrooke resident, is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She can help you incorporate simple lifestyle modifications whether you are managing existing heart disease or striving to avoid age-related illnesses.