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Beyond the Salt: What to Eat and Not Eat for a Healthy Blood Pressure

Chronically high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other serious medical conditions. Medication can lower your blood pressure, but diet also plays an important role in keeping your blood pressure at healthy levels.

Here at Advanced Infectious Disease Medical, Dr. Avisheh Forouzesh is an internal medicine specialist who encourages her patients to take a long-term, comprehensive approach to managing their health, which includes following a nutritious diet that’s good for your blood pressure and overall well-being. She shares these diet-related tips.

Do limit your salt intake

It’s the sodium within table salt that affects your blood pressure. One level teaspoon of salt contains 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium. It’s recommended that you limit your daily sodium intake to 1500 mg when your blood pressure is high. If you’re salt sensitive, even a small reduction in sodium intake can reduce your blood pressure by 5-6 points.

Season with herbs and spices instead

If you’re used to adding a lot of salt to your food, try reducing your salt intake gradually and adding spices and herbs to enrich the taste of your foods. Your palate will soon grow accustomed to, and even welcome, the change in flavors.

Fill your plate with fresh and lean

A diet that’s rich in fresh leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products can help lower your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure. Add in whole grains and lean proteins and you create a balanced diet that can help keep your heart healthy and your blood pressure within normal range.

Cut back on sugary foods and drinks

You may be surprised to hear that eating (and drinking) too much sugar is linked to high blood pressure. The usual sugary suspects are desserts like cookies, cakes, and candy, which are loaded with sugar. But if sweetened drinks are your thing -- think soda, sweet tea, and flavored coffees -- cutting back on those is a good idea, too, and may even help you lose weight.

Leave the deli meats, soups, and overly processed foods at the store

While canned soups, frozen meals, and sandwich meats are often convenient, they contain an overabundance of sodium. One serving of canned soup, for instance, can contain 900 mg of sodium. That’s more than half of the 1500 mg you should consume in a day if you have high blood pressure. Packaged foods, such as baked goods and frozen meals, may contain trans fat, which is terribly unhealthy for your heart and blood pressure.

It may take a little more time, but creating soups from fresh ingredients, slicing your sandwich meat from a home-roasted chicken, and cooking your own freeze-ahead meals can keep your sodium intake within normal range and your blood pressure where it should be.

Hold the mayo

Mayonnaise, salad dressings, and other condiments are generally high in sodium and often contain unhealthy fats. Try low-sodium alternatives that add to the flavor of your foods but contain much less sodium. Molasses mixed with spices and unseasoned rice-wine vinegar, for instance, makes a tasty substitute for soy sauce. Soy sauce contains 1,000 mg of sodium per tablespoon, compared to the 10 mg of sodium in a tablespoon of molasses.

Monitor your alcohol intake

Reduce alcohol consumption to no more than, at most, one drink per day. Moderation is key – that’s one drink a day. When you exceed these amounts, alcohol can actually raise your blood pressure several points and interfere with the effectiveness of some blood pressure medications.

For further information regarding healthy blood pressure control, schedule an appointment with Dr. Forouzesh. Call our office in Hoboken, New Jersey, or book your visit online.

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