Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart muscle squeezes and pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the oxygenated blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension (HTN), causes the heart to enlarge and makes it work harder, but less efficiently.
Types of blood pressure readings:
Normal: Pre-HTN: 120-139 mgHg/80-89 mgHg
Stage 1 HTN: 140-159 mgHg/90-99 mgHg
Stage 2 HTN: 160 mgHg and above/100 mgHg and above
If high blood pressure is not treated, it can lead to:
• Enlarged Heart
• Heart Failure – aka: The Silent Killer!
• Peripheral Vascular Disease
• Heart Attack
• Kidney Disease/Failure
Many people are salt-sensitive, which can raise your blood pressure, so READ FOOD LABELS for sodium content. A good rule of thumb when reading the label is if the % Daily Value is 5% or less, it is low; if it is 20% or more, it is high. When it comes to sodium, we want it low.
If you are over 50 years old, are African American of any age, already have high blood pressure, or have diabetes or chronic kidney disease you should limit yourself to 1,500 mg sodium or less per day.
Everyone else should limit themselves to 2,300 mg sodium or less per day, which is the amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt!
To lower your blood pressure:
• Check your own blood pressure regularly at home to learn what raises your BP.
• Eat healthy foods that are low in salt and fat. READ LABELS!
• Cut back on processed packaged foods and processed meats. Rinse off canned veggies and beans to remove salty solution. Cook in fresh water.
• Select low sodium products and foods that are low in fat.
• Omit salt in cooking and at the table. Flavor your foods with herbs and spices (i.e. garlic powder vs garlic salt). Experiment with Mrs. Dash, Tabasco or other hot sauces, peppers, lemon juice or vinegars. Your taste buds will adjust in no time!
• Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks each day. One drink is defined as 1 oz of alcohol, 5 oz of wine, or 12 oz of beer.
• Eat at least 5-13 servings of fruits and veggies every day (if you follow a 2,000 calorie diet = 9 servings/day or 4.5 cups/day).
• Be more physically active – aim for a minimum of 30 minutes exercise/day.
• Some medications, such as antacids are high in sodium. Cold medicatins can raise your blood pressure.
• Consider following the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension:
– Is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
– Focuses on fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
– Is rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, unsalted seeds and nuts
– Contains fewer sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages, and red meats than the typical American diet
– Work with a registered dietitian who can create a low sodium meal plan for you