Types of Foods to Avoid If You Have High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a medical condition where your blood exerts a high level of force against the walls of your arteries.

According to a study by the American Heart Association, an estimated one in three adults older than 20 years of age suffer from high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in adults older than 65. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated two-thirds of adults older than 65 have high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is untreated, it can lead to serious health conditions, including heart failure, increased risk of stroke and more.

In addition to age, your family history influences whether you are at risk for high blood pressure. Smoking, diet and alcohol intake increase your odds as well. Another one of the largest influencing factors for blood pressure is your diet. If you have high blood pressure or you are at risk of hypertension, altering your diet is one of the most effective ways to minimize your symptoms. Learn how you can take control of your hypertension below.

Salt

Salt is one of the worst offenders for causing high blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you should limit your total sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams each day. A study from the Mayo Clinic showed that, on average, Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Sodium is frequently found in diets because it is a common ingredient in meals, even in food items you would not commonly think would have a lot of salt.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from packaged foods. If you suffer from high blood pressure, it is important you look at the nutritional value for any packaged foods you purchase to try and limit your sodium levels. Some of the packaged foods with the highest levels of sodium include the following:

  • Processed lunch and deli meats are high in sodium because the meats are cured, seasoned and preserved in salt. Depending on the type of lunch meat, you may end up getting one-third of your recommended sodium intake from a single serving.
  • Normal pizza is risky for anyone watching their sodium levels, but frozen pizzas are one of the worst offenders. Manufacturers use high levels of salt to preserve the flavor in frozen pizza. The thicker the crust and the more toppings on the pizza, the higher the sodium levels.
  • Canned soups are often viewed as a healthy food because of their association with curing colds. Canned soups are convenient to cook when you are sick because of how easy they are to prepare, but canned soups contain some of the highest levels of sodium, with one soup can often having 2,000 milligrams worth of salt.

Tomato Products

Tomato products are risky for anyone with high blood pressure. The majority of tomato products are high in sodium. Even tomato juices, normally seen as a healthy product, have high sodium levels. Tomatoes can have health benefits as well because they contain lycopene. If you want to include tomato products in your diet, you can look for low- or reduced-sodium versions. Consider making your own tomato sauce so you can better control the ingredients.

Sugar

Another one of the biggest offenders for high blood pressure is sugar. A diet high in sugar leads to weight gain and, in severe cases, obesity. This issue naturally increases your likelihood of suffering from high blood pressure. However, it is important to bear in mind that sugar itself increases your risks of high blood pressure. Like salt, sugar can be difficult to avoid because it is such a common ingredient. One of the worst offenders for sugar comes from sweetened drinks, as these contain surprisingly high levels of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women limit their sugar intake to 24 grams a day, while men limit themselves to 36 grams each day.

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Here are some additional food items with hidden added sugar:

  • Breakfast bars, even those made with whole grains.
  • Bran cereal with raisins.
  • Salad Dressings.
  • Smoothies

Saturated and Trans Fats

Both saturated and trans fats can cause a spike in blood pressure. Saturated fats are commonly found in the following types of food:

  • Chicken skin.
  • Red meats.
  • Butter.
  • Full-fat dairy products.

Despite being a type of fat, saturated fats are not entirely negative. In addition to affecting your blood pressure, saturated fats provide your body with healthy cholesterol, which your body breaks down for energy. If you have high blood pressure, you must reduce the amount of saturated fats you consume, but you do not have to remove them entirely from your diet.

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Trans fats do not have the same health benefits as saturated fats and can be removed entirely from your diet. Trans fats are sometimes found in packaged and prepared foods, and these items are already bad for your blood pressure. Trans fats are typically common in oily foods. If you cook your own food, be careful what types of cooking oils you use, as you may inadvertently be adding trans fat into your meals. A good alternative is olive oil, which typically does not contain any trans fats.

Caffeine

Caffeine causes your adrenal glands to release excess cortisol and adrenaline, which cause a spike in your blood pressure. If you normally drink coffee throughout the day, removing it from your diet may significantly lower your blood pressure. Some common medications include caffeine as an ingredient, so be sure to check the ingredients or warnings on the label. If you are in doubt, ask your doctor for recommendations for medication without any caffeine.

Making Changes to Your Diet

Changing your diet is one of the most effective ways to treat your blood pressure, but if you are not careful, it can cause other medical risks. When you remove foods from your diet to help your blood pressure, it is important you replace those foods with healthy alternatives. Otherwise, you risk throwing off the rest of your diet.

Fruits and vegetables make excellent dietary alternatives because these types of foods are filled with healthy nutrients. Some foods, such as beets and pomegranates are rich in nitrates, and can reduce your blood pressure. Replacing foods with nuts, beans and whole grains can reduce your blood pressure and replace whatever unhealthy foods were previously in your diet.

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