By Craig Weber, MD
Restrict These Foods If You Have Hypertension
The topic of dietary recommendations for high blood pressure is an interesting one. On one hand, it is exceedingly complex and has been the continued focus of research for at least three decades. On the other hand, the vast majority of dietary recommendations for high blood pressure are very similar to healthy diet recommendations in general.
But regardless of the latest research, there are certain things you should avoid if you have hypertension. So if you’re following a pressure diet to help manage your condition, be sure to watch out for these three potential spikers.
People with high blood pressure should not drink alcohol. While studies have demonstrated that low levels of alcohol intake can have protective effects on the heart and can possibly reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, research has also clearly demonstrated that consuming alcohol in the setting of existing high blood pressure is unhealthy.
Alcohol directly raises blood pressure, and further acts to damage the walls of blood vessels, which can elevate the blood pressure further and make it more difficult to treat, while simultaneously increasing the risk of complications.
If you don’t want to take the step of cutting out all alcohol, the American Heart Association and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases say to drink alcohol only in moderation, no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day (one for most women, two for most men). A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.
In some people, eating too much salt can make high blood pressure much worse. In others, the same amount of salt consumption may have no effect. The problem is that no doctor or scientist can tell which is the case for an individual patient until it is too late.
This, combined with the fact that too much salt is bad for the heart regardless of blood pressure status, means that reduced sodium is a strongly recommended part of a healthy diet. These recommendations are especially important in the setting of secondary high blood pressure due to kidney problems.
While it can be difficult at first to eat a low-sodium diet, you will quickly readjust your taste buds when you stick with it for a couple of weeks. Preparing your own food at home from whole ingredients rather than eating processed food or eating at restaurants is an easy way to control the sodium in your food.
Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for both the heart and blood vessels. Because the circulatory system is already under a lot of stress in the setting of high blood pressure, extra strain can be devastating.
The balanced high blood pressure diet should include sparse amounts of saturated and trans-fats (red meat, fast food), and moderate amounts of other fats (olives, canola oil), avoiding tropical oils. Instead of red meat, enjoy fish, poultry, seeds, nuts, and beans. You can still have the occasional meal of the leanest cuts of red meat. Enjoy fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
When you are buying products at the grocery store, look for the Heart-Check mark from the American Heart Association. This mark on the label shows the product meets the AHA criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium for a single serving.
DASH Eating Plan
If you want a more structured way to dive into a diet for hypertension, look into the DASH eating plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.