The number of Americans who suffer from high blood pressure, aka hypertension, recently increased by nearly 30 million people in just one day. What happened? Experts lowered the threshold for diagnosing it
Previously, you were considered hypertensive if your numbers were above 140/80 mm Hg, but according to the new guidelines released by The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, a blood pressure above 130/80 mm Hg is now considered to be “stage 1 hypertension.” This means nearly half of all American adults now have high blood pressure, compared to 1 in 3 as was previously thought. While this new standard isn’t a cause for alarm, it is a good opportunity to see your doctor, slip that cuff back onto your arm, and get rechecked.
If you do have high blood pressure, here’s the good news: There’s a lot you can do about it, including not smoking, losing weight if you’re overweight, being physically active, and—most importantly—following a healthy eating pattern.
Below, five ways to eat to improve your blood pressure, plus a day’s worth of recipes so you can hit the ground running.
How to Build a Blood-Pressure Friendly Diet
Step 1: Adopt a healthy eating pattern. In particular, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been shown to be as effective, if not more, than prescription medications in decreasing blood pressure. It’s a mostly plant-based diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and low in refined grains, sugar, salt, and red meat, that delivers high levels of fiber and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Step 2: Eat less sodium. Even if your diet is already generally healthy, eating too much sodium can put you at risk for hypertension. If you already have high blood pressure, eating fewer salty foods is an essential dietary change.
Step 3: Eat more potassium. Potassium is a super nutrient when it comes to lowering blood pressure, because it can balance out the harmful effects of salt. If you’re not following the DASH diet, make sure potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, and soy products, are a regular part of your daily fare.
Step 4: Drink less alcohol. Ideally, you want to aim for no more than two alcoholic drinks per day if you’re a man, and one drink per day if you’re a woman. Typically, one standard drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1½ ounces of distilled spirits.
Step 5: Keep your gut healthy and happy. Emerging research shows the bugs in your belly may play a role in beating high blood pressure. Stock up on plenty of pre- and probiotic foods and drinks, like yogurt and high-fiber veggies, to get the balance of “good” and “bad” microorganisms in your gut right.
Your First Day of Meals and Snacks
Wondering exactly how to put these tips into practice? Here’s a day’s worth of delicious, heart-healthy recipes.
Breakfast: Veggie Breakfast Burrito
Mid-morning snack: Gingery Kale Smoothie
Lunch: Turkey Club Wrap + Apple
Snack: Banana + Nut Butter
Dinner: “Creamy” Chicken Pasta Primavera
Snack: Berries + Yogurt
Nutrition facts: 2,000 calories, 25% (126 g) protein, 50% (251 g) carbs, 45 g fiber, 95 g total sugars, 4 g added sugars, 29% (65 g) total Fat, 9% (20g) saturated fat, 1166 mg calcium, 4498 mg potassium, 1770 mg sodium, 498 mg magnesium.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.