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Eat This, Not That: Hypertension Edition

Eat This, Not That: Hypertension Edition

Roughly half of Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure), putting them at risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, vision and kidney problems, dementia, and other serious medical problems. Medication can help manage high blood pressure, but lifestyle changes also play an important role — including your diet.

At TLC Medical Group Inc., Anthony B. Lewis, MD, FACC, and his team help patients manage hypertension with comprehensive treatment plans focused on lifestyle changes and medication when needed. To mark High Blood Pressure Education Month, our team reviews some simple steps you can take to manage your blood pressure by watching what you eat and drink.

Eat: The rainbow

No, we’re not referring to the popular candy slogan. We’re talking about a much healthier mantra that dietitians and nutritionists frequently recommend: Eat an array of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Reds, oranges, greens, yellows, and even blues and purples pack a big nutritional punch from antioxidants, special molecules that help ward off cell damage, inflammation, and age-related changes. 

Fruits and vegetables also contain high levels of minerals like potassium and magnesium that promote normal heart health and function. These foods — like beets, garlic, bananas, berries, and leafy greens — may help lower blood pressure naturally.

Don’t eat: Processed or prepackaged foods

Speaking of sodium and unhealthy fats, many processed and prepackaged foods are high in both. Even foods you might think are healthy, like canned vegetables, soups, and “healthy” frozen meals, are often sources of extremely high sodium levels. Deli meats and anything deep-fried (including most fast-food items) should be avoided.

Eat: Whole grains

One way to help manage your blood pressure is to eat more fiber, and one of the best ways to do that is by incorporating more whole grains into your diet. Whole grains also help you feel full longer so you can manage your weight more effectively (another way to keep blood pressure in check).

Don’t eat: Refined or processed carbohydrates

Sugar increases inflammation and that can lead to blood vessel damage. Once damaged, it’s easier for cholesterol to stick to vessel walls, increasing the risk of high blood pressure. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes, another risk factor for hypertension and heart disease, too.

Eat: Spices, herbs, and natural flavorings

Spices, herbs, and natural flavorings like lemon or lime juice add plenty of flavor without resorting to salt, which can actually raise your blood pressure. Some natural flavorings, like garlic and cinnamon, may actually help lower your blood pressure.

Don’t eat: Excess salt

Your body does need some salt to function normally, but most of us consume far more than the recommended amount. Table salt is a familiar source of sodium, but it’s also in plenty of foods—even “non-salty” foods like bread and condiments. Read labels and use natural flavorings when cooking at home.

Eat (or drink): Water

Staying hydrated is important for maintaining a normal blood volume and supporting healthy circulation. Water is your best option — add a little mint, cucumber, watermelon, lemon, or lime to boost flavor. Carry a water bottle with you to avoid the temptation to buy a sugary beverage, and avoid beverages with caffeine that can actually dehydrate you.

Don’t eat: Sugary drinks and energy drinks

Skip sugary drinks, including many fruit blends masquerading as healthy beverages. Avoid energy drinks, which typically contain both sugar and caffeine, each of which can contribute to higher blood pressure.

Bottom line: Trust Mother Nature

Our bodies are “designed” to thrive on the foods provided in nature, and natural foods, like vegetables, fruits, and grains, are rich and healthy sources of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. 

Cooking from scratch, eating more raw foods (like salads, fresh fruit, and smoothies), reading food labels, and staying away from processed foods and sugary drinks are great ways to give your body what it needs while significantly lowering your risk of hypertension and other chronic diseases.

If you have high blood pressure or you’re at risk of developing hypertension, our team can help you develop a plan to reduce your blood pressure and improve your health in other ways, too. To learn more, call 772-200-3829 or request an appointment online with the team at TLC Medical Group in Port St. Lucie, Florida, today. 

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