About one-third of us in the United States have high blood pressure. Men have more hypertension than women through middle age, but women surpass men afterward.
A devious killer, it works silently against us. High blood pressure causes your blood vessels to degenerate, your heart muscle to thicken, your kidneys to scar and shrink, your retina of your eyes may become damaged and worse still, the blood vessels in your brain may leak, clot or burst. This disease is dangerous and can threaten your life with no apparent warning signs. It raises your chances of heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.
The force exerted by your blood exerted against the walls of your blood vessels is your blood pressure. It is your blood pressure, which forces oxygen and food (plasma carrying sugar, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals) into your tissues through porous microscopic capillary walls. This is why normal blood pressure is vital to the nutrition of your cells. With each heartbeat, a fresh spurt of blood is forced into your arteries, temporarily increasing the pressure against their walls. This “systolic” pressure, which is the first or top number of your blood pressure reading, describes your heart’s force and is normally 120 – 140 millimeters. “Diastolic” pressure is the tension between your heartbeats. It is naturally lower when your heart is resting and is normally 80 – 90 mm. Pressure above these numbers is considered high blood pressure.
Eating large amounts of produce may produce a drop in high blood pressure by altering your blood chemistry. A healthy diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables lowers blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is thought to raise the risk of heart disease. This can lower your blood pressure by as much as 9 percent.
Low dietary intake of potassium can also contribute to high blood pressure. Again, this mineral is bountiful in fruits, beans, vegetables and lean meats. Potassium deficiency can be caused by an excess sodium intake however. Experts say you should limit your sodium intake. Processed foods are full of salt so it’s important to cut back on them as well. Lunch meats, canned foods, processed cheese, and so on. A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will give you an optimized ratio of potassium to sodium. Especially good for this purpose are apricots, avocados, bananas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, fish, grapefruit, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, and tofu.
Even if your blood pressure is just a little high, one of your health priorities should be to lower it. Studies reveal that having a systolic pressure of 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mm Hg (prehypertension) may increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 32%.
Take control of your blood pressure with a varied diet that includes fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, also minimize your consumption of red meat, saturated fat, sweets, and if you are salt-sensitive – sodium. Exercising regularly and practicing relaxation techniques can also help reduce high blood pressure.