High blood pressure has been labeled “the silent killer.” This is because its symptoms are scarce and subtle.
People often find out about their high blood pressure with a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.
When it comes to blood pressure management, prevention is vital.
Let’s discuss what high blood pressure is, which symptoms to look out for, potential causes, and diet’s effect on blood pressure.
We will then go through 15 different foods that have been research-proven to help lower blood pressure.
You may want to add this food to lower blood pressure to your cart on your next grocery shopping trip! Continue reading to find out what to look for when it comes to food to lower blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of Mercury, or “mmHg.” The value is given as a fraction, with the top number (the numerator) indicating systolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts. The bottom number (the denominator) indicates diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure on blood vessels when the heart is relaxed.
High blood pressure is when systolic blood pressure is higher or equal to 140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure is higher or equal to 90 mmHg.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
It is essential to have your blood pressure checked regularly. There are machines available at your local pharmacy, and these can be helpful for a general check. However, your doctor’s blood pressure reading will be more accurate.
There are also machines that you can purchase and use at home. It is important to have your blood pressure monitored, especially if you have risk factors for high blood pressure (these include smoking, diabetes, stress, etc.). This is because the actual symptoms of high blood pressure are scarce and subtle.
The symptoms of high blood pressure include:
- Nose bleeds
- Ringing in the ears
Causes of high blood pressure
Causes of high blood pressure include:
- Unhealthy dietary habits (i.e., lots of processed foods)
- An inactive lifestyle (i.e., need to lose weight)
- Kidney failure
- Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis
- Renal fibromuscular dysplasia
- Renal parenchymal disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Cushing syndrome
- Certain medications
The effect of diet on high blood pressure
As we all know, your diet can have long-term effects on your health. A diet high in sodium, calories, trans fat, red meat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar and low in fruits and vegetables can raise blood pressure.
One diet, in particular, was created to help those with high blood pressure specifically.
This is the DASH diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This low-sodium diet has been scientifically proven to help reduce blood pressure.
It is full of food to lower blood pressure. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that higher adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet was related to reducing the risk of having a stroke compared to lower adherence.
This goes to show us that the more dedicated to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet you are, the more benefit you can have when it comes to reducing your risk of life-threatening severe cardiovascular events.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet is not only beneficial for high blood pressure, however. This diet can also have a positive effect on the kidneys. A new study showed that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet can be helpful in the prevention of chronic kidney disease.
This study was a systematic review and meta-analysis, looking at a total of 568,156 patients. Researchers found that the more participants followed a DASH diet, the lower the risk they had of a rapid decline in the estimated glomerular filtration rate.
Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR for short) is a measure of how effectively the kidneys are functioning. The fact that this diet can prevent a rapid decline in kidney function is important.
Sodium intake is very closely linked to high blood pressure. Keep an eye on your food labels to see what the sodium content is of the foods you’re eating.
Adopting a plant-based diet that is full of low-sodium food and rich in potassium, whole grains, and low-fat milk products can be useful in both preventing and managing high blood pressure.
The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to help lower blood pressure. This diet is high in legumes, virgin olive oil, fruits, and vegetables.
15 foods that help to lower high blood pressure
Pomegranate juice is rich in polyphenols and has a high antioxidant capacity. This is what makes it antiatherogenic, anti-inflammatory, and blood pressure-lowering. It also helps to protect the heart.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence from placebo-controlled trials were performed. This revealed that there were consistent benefits of pomegranate juice on blood pressure.
There were significant reductions in systolic blood pressure, with an average drop of 4.96 mmHg. Pomegranate juice also led to a lowered blood pressure of the diastolic variety, with an average drop of 2.01 mmHg.
2) Olive oil
Many of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet mentioned above are due to the high consumption of olive oil. Virgin olive oil is actually the only edible fat that can be consumed as a natural fruit product, without additives or preservatives. Olive oil contains oleic acid, as well as other more minor constituents that help to lower blood pressure.
3) Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate has been shown to have protective effects on the heart. It does this because of its inhibitory action on platelet functions. Several studies have demonstrated just how effective dark chocolate is on coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.
Dark chocolate is also high in magnesium, which is a natural relaxant of smooth muscle. Since smooth muscle is found inside our blood vessels, dark chocolate helps to relax the blood vessels and, therefore, lower blood pressure.
Over the past decade, garlic has become one of the most popular natural therapies for high blood pressure. And for a good reason, too! Garlic has a significant lowering effect on blood pressure as compared to placebo.
Garlic has been found to lower systolic blood pressure by 6.71 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 4.79 mmHg. All this being said, garlic is clearly an effective (and safe) approach to lower blood pressure.
A recent randomized controlled trial observed patients with high blood pressure who consumed flaxseed daily for one year. They found impressive reductions in blood pressure. The researchers concluded that flaxseed is a potentially valuable strategy in the management of high blood pressure.
Flaxseeds are also high in fiber and can, therefore, help manage cholesterol levels as well. Several seeds also help to lower blood pressure due to their high magnesium content.
6) Beetroot juice
Beetroot juice is high in inorganic nitrates, which help to lower blood pressure. A scientific study found that beetroot juice was able to lower systolic blood pressure by 3.55 mmHg. It also lowered diastolic blood pressure by 1.32 mmHg compared to control groups.
One study looked at participants who were consuming at least five servings of yogurt per week. They found that these people had a 10% lower risk of high blood pressure. The study concluded that higher total dairy intake, especially in the form of yogurt, is associated with a lower risk of elevated blood pressure in middle-aged and older adult men and women.
Blueberries have been purported to have properties that protect the blood vessels and help to lower blood pressure.
One study, in particular, looked at the inclusion of freeze-dried blueberry powder at a dose of 22 grams per day. After eight weeks, they found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower than at the start of the study.
They also discovered that levels of nitric oxide were higher in the blueberry powder group compared to the control group. Researchers concluded that daily blueberry consumption could help to reduce blood pressure and stiffness of the arteries due to blueberries’ increased production of nitric oxide.
Mackerel, herring, and salmon are all fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. One study looked at patients with mild hypertension and put them on a diet of mackerel and herring.
They found a significant decrease of 8% for systolic blood pressure. Researchers also found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower during a standardized psychophysiological stress test after having been on the diet of mackerel and herring.
Pistachios help to lower blood pressure by inhibiting an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme I (ACE-I for short). This enzyme is linked to hypertension.
Celery is an important source of phytochemicals such as phenolic acids, flavones, and flavonols. It also provides antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese.
These antioxidants help to decrease oxidative damage — the phytochemicals found in celery help by helping to reduce inflammation. Oxidative damage and inflammation are the two factors most closely linked to cardiovascular disease and the thickening of the arteries.
Celery also contains phthalides, which help to expand smooth muscle in the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.
Spinach is a vegetable that is high in nitrates. Spinach promotes the bioavailability of nitric oxide. This then reduces blood pressure and enhances blood flow to the tissues.
Increasing your dietary intake of spinach may help to prevent and manage certain cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including high blood pressure. Spinach is also one of the most potassium-rich foods.
Other leafy green vegetables can help in this way as well, including kale and beet greens.
Broccoli contains a protein that has ACE inhibitory effects. This leads to the lowering of blood pressure in a significant way. Broccoli is also on the list of potassium-rich foods.
14) Skim milk
In moderation, milk and milk products can fit well into a healthy eating pattern. Milk contains calcium and bioactive peptides that can help protect against high blood pressure.
Whole-grain oat products can release peptides that inhibit ACE. Therefore, researchers have concluded that oats can be used as a potential therapeutic ingredient to help lower blood pressure.
The mere thought of a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or a heart attack can be scary. You might as well do everything in your power to prevent this type of scenario.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and keep an eye out for any potential symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nose bleeds, ringing in the ears, drowsiness, and a feeling of weakness.
Keep in mind the drastic effect that diet can have to help you reduce your blood pressure. Avoid sodium and consume a diet rich in plant-based whole foods as well as potassium-rich foods.
Avoid processed foods at all costs. If you are overweight, consider how significant some weight loss might be for you. Try to consume the 15 foods listed above for an extra drop in your blood pressure levels.