Hypertension Controlling Diet

A hypertension diet isn’t really a “diet” by most other people’s standards. Rather, it’s learning to avoid certain foods that contribute to high blood pressure. Of course, since many of the foods to avoid cause weight gain, you might be able to lose weight while simultaneously lowering your blood pressure.

Sodium and Blood Pressure

The human body needs less than a teaspoon of salt per day. The average American consumes anywhere between 2 to 4 teaspoons of salt daily–much of it hidden in processed or pre-packaged food.

Excessive sodium in our diets accounts for many hypertension cases. High amounts of sodium in the body lead to fluid retention, leading to higher blood pressures. A low sodium diet is often the first suggestion doctors make when a patient is diagnosed with high blood pressure.

We get most of our sodium through sodium chloride–or table salt. Much processed food is another source of high sodium. These products should be avoided if you’re following a hypertension diet.

Hypertension cookbooks are available for people who need to restrict their salt intake. You can find low sodium recipes online, at the library, or through your local diabetes association.

Foods to Avoid in a Hypertension Diet

Although this may look like a list of your favorite foods, it’s also a list of foods to avoid if you suspect hypertension:

  • Canned soups
  • Cheese
  • Potato chips
  • Cured meat
  • Pickles
  • Salted popcorn
  • Seasoning salts (garlic salt, celery salt, etc.)
  • Soy sauce.

Hypertension and a Low Cholesterol Diet

While a hypertension diet should restrict salt, reducing fat and cholesterol intake in your diet can also lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Obesity has been linked to hypertension. A high-fat diet increases the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Combinations of high cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to clogged arteries and early heart attacks.

A hypertension diet should also be a low cholesterol diet. Intake of high fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, should be increased if you need to lower blood pressure.

Staying Motivated

Changing your eating habits takes time, persistence and a little imagination. Try a few of these ideas.

  • Do some research–there are some very good low-fat cookbooks on the market.
  • Experiment with Eastern cuisine; Asian and Oriental dishes rely heavily on vegetables and grains. Just watch the soy, fish and oyster sauce.
  • Keep fresh fruit close at hand. Put a bowl by your favorite chair, on your desk, and on the kitchen table.
  • Snack on dried fruit instead of cookies and pretzels.

The DASH Diet

The DASH (“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”) diet is a combination of ideas mentioned above. The DASH diet was designed to lower blood pressure, but is a good model for general health practices as well. The diet lowers sodium intake while increasing servings of fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods. The DASH diet is also high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium–minerals that help lower blood pressure–as well as dietary fiber.

To start on the DASH diet, gradually cut back on sodium intake while increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day.

Resources

Fleming, T., Beason, T., Gabel, C. (2009). Help for hypertension: A dietary guide. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the Missouri Families Web site: http://missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut17.htm.

National Institutes of Health Staff. (2006). Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the National Institutes of Health Web site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Staff. (2003). Facts about the DASH eating plan. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site: http://www.hhs.state.ne.us/hew/hpe/cvh/docs/new_dash.pdf.