Diet for hypertension: 5 key foods to add to your diet, 4 to avoid for high blood pressure

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Hypertension – also known as high blood pressure – occurs when blood pressure reaches unhealthy levels, often due to lifestyle factors like diet and weight, but sometimes as a byproduct of other health conditions. Hypertension is known as a silent condition as sufferers don’t typically notice any symptoms.

When someone has high blood pressure, their arteries narrow making it harder for blood to pass through the body.

Over time this can cause illnesses like heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

If you are worried about your blood pressure, you can get it checked at a routine GP appointment.

Genetics, lifestyle factors and environment can all contribute to someone having high blood pressure, and so there are some steps you can take to prevent or even lower your blood pressure.

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Foods to eat more of

Fruit and Vegetables

The age-old ‘make sure you eat your five a day’ definitely applies here.

Berries contain antioxidants which studies have found can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Bananas have potassium, with is a mineral key in managing hypertension.

Dark Chocolate

According to Medical News Today, a review of 15 trials suggests cocoa-rich chocolate reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension or prehypertension.

But don’t just grab any chocolate! You will need to look for high-quality dark chocolate with a minimum of 70 percent cocoa and eat one square a day.

Fermented food

While this may not appeal to everyone, fermented foods contain probiotics, which are a friendly bacteria ideal for gut health.

Medical News Today reported one review of nine studies found “eating probiotics can have a modest effect on high blood pressure”.

Fermented foods include:

  • Kimchi
  • Natural yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Miso

Foods to reduce or avoid

Alcohol intake

The NHS explains: “Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.

“Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.”

The recommended levels are:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Caffeine

If you drink more than four cups of coffee a day, you may increase your blood pressure.

You can drink both tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet, but overindulging on caffeine may have adverse impacts.

Smoking

While smoking on its own doesn’t cause high blood pressure, it can put you at risk of serious illness like heart attack and stroke.

This is because smoking narrows the arteries – like high blood pressure does.

Should you smoke and have high blood pressure, the NHS warns your arteries will narrow “much more quickly” and “your risk of heart or lung disease in the future is dramatically increased.”

Salt

Reducing salty foods in your diet can improve heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.

Make sure to look at food labels to see the salt content, and opt for low-sodium options where possible.

Eat less processed foods, as these can contain high levels of sodium.

Try not to add salt to your meals, instead opt for herbs and spices.

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