Hypertension, or high blood pressure, develops over time from different risk factors including genetics, age, stress, lack of exercise or high salt consumption. While it's most common among older adults, young people are by no means immune to hypertension. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in four people aged 20 to 44 has high blood pressure, which puts you at higher risk of serious health conditions like a heart attack or stroke.
A high blood pressure reading is a systolic pressure (how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart beats) of 130 and higher or a diastolic pressure of 80 and higher. It's important to remain informed on your blood pressure and seek treatment if you're experiencing hypertension. Prescription medicines can help regulate it, but you can also naturally lower your blood pressure by living a healthy lifestyle and eating a more nutritious diet.
Here are seven types of food you should incorporate into your meals to help control high blood pressure.
For more ways your diet can help improve your health, here are seven foods to help with sleep and 13 foods for healthy kidneys.
Best foods for high blood pressure
Here are our favorite best foods for keeping your blood pressure in check.
- Berries are high in antioxidants -- including anthocyanins, which are water-soluble pigments responsible for red, blue and purple. They give the fruits their bright color and help lower blood pressure.
- Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are great sources of vitamins and minerals and can aid in high blood pressure. One five-month-long study with 101 women showed that daily lemon intake combined with walks could effectively lower systolic blood pressure.
- Bananas are chock-full of potassium which reduces sodium levels in your body, a trigger for high blood pressure.
- Pomegranate juice can improve heart health and has anti-hypertensive effects on systolic and diastolic pressures (the pressure your blood exerts on the artery walls when your heart rests).
Leafy greens and red beets contain significant nitrate levels, which are converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation, easing high blood pressure. One study found that a high vegetable nitrate intake was linked to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Leafy greens high in nitrate include:
- Swiss chard
- Romaine lettuce
- Turnip greens
Carrots, celery and broccoli are also helpful in regulating heart health and controlling high blood pressure. Carrots and celery help reduce inflammation and calm blood vessels, while broccoli is full of antioxidants that raise your body's nitric oxide levels.
Dairy products like yogurt have proven to help lower blood pressure, presumably because of their high levels of nutrients such as calcium and potassium -- a study involving 150,000 participants associated dairy with a lower risk of diabetes and blood pressure.
Nuts and seeds
- Pistachios are high in potassium and have proven to be a strong aid for healthy SDP and DBP.
- Unsalted sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia and pumpkin seeds are also full of potassium and other nutrients like magnesium and fiber, which can help lower blood pressure.
Lean beef, pork, chicken and fatty fish are good proteins to help promote healthy blood pressure. Fatty fish like salmon are loaded with omega-3 fats, and high levels of this healthy fat are associated with lower SBP and DBP. Healthy fats can reduce inflammation in the body that damages blood vessels, helping prevent high blood pressure.
For those with a sweet tooth, the cocoa inside dark chocolate contains flavonoids that increase nitric oxide levels and help lower blood pressure.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cook with extra-virgin olive oil, the least processed oil and one of the best for anti-hypertension. It has an antioxidant polyphenol and a fatty acid that help maintain a healthy heart.
Foods to avoid
- Sodium: It's common for your doctor to limit your sodium intake when you have high blood pressure. Sodium promotes water retention, which increases blood volume, resulting in higher blood pressure and stress on the blood vessels. Examples include condiments, sauces, bacon, sausage, deli meats, canned foods like soups and vegetables, and packaged or microwavable meals.
- Fried foods: Sodium and saturated fats in fried foods aren't good for healthy blood pressure. Steaming or baking your foods are better, healthier alternatives.
- Red meat: Research suggests you should eat no more than 1.25 ounces of red meat daily (around the size of your palm) as it is a known culprit for high blood pressure. Remember, beef isn't the red meat source. Pork, lamb, veal, venison and goat are also considered red meats.
- Alcohol and caffeine: Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation. Drinking in excess on a daily basis (two drinks for men and one for women) can result in serious risks like hypertension or a stroke. Caffeine can also contribute to increased blood pressure.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.