WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Blood pressure, the force exerted by blood against artery walls, is recorded as two numbers: systolic (the peak force, as it's pumped by the heart) over diastolic (the weaker force, between heartbeats).
High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when the pressure of your blood against the artery walls is higher than normal. Physicians rate blood pressure for adults ove 18 in the following categories:
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80
- Prehypertension is 120/80 to 139/89
- Stage 1 (moderate) hypertension is 140/90 to 159/99
- Stage 2 (severe) hypertension is 160/100 or higher
Risk factors for high blood pressure
- Being overweight
- Having an inactive lifestyle
- Having too much sodium (salt) or not enough potassium in the diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Having a family history of high blood pressure
- Using certain medications, including birth control pills, steroids, decongestants, and anti-inflammatories
DIET FOR HYPERTENSION PREVENTION
1. Maintain a healthy weight. This is especially important if you tend to gain weight around the waist rather than in the hips and thighs. A weight loss of only 10 pounds can lower blood pressure.
2. Follow the Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan:
- Eat 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Eat 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products each day.
- Limit the amount of saturated and total fat you eat. Saturated fat is found in animal products (milk, cheese, and meat). Limiting these foods will help you lose weight and also lower your risk of heart disease.
3. Exercise regurlarly. Be physically active at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. This will help lower your blood pressure (and may also help you lose weight).
4. Limit your sodium intake to 1,800 to 2,400 mg per day. Too much salt in the diet can be a problem for some people.
5. Stop smoking or using other tobacco products. Tobacco use increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
SHAKE THE SALT HABIT
Another mineral also plays a role in blood pressure-but this one is cast as a villain. Study after study has linked a high intake of sodium, the major chemical component of salt, with higher blood pressure. Many packaged and processed foods are high in sodium, making a diet rich in fruits and vegetables critical. In fact, one reason potassium helps fight hypertension is that it helps rid the body of excess sodium. Some particularly good bets include:
Fruits For potassium content grab a banana -each one offers at least 400 mg., about 13 percent of the Daily Value. Other fresh fruits, including honeydew melons, apricots, and pears, also provide healthy amounts of potassium, as do dried fruits, like prunes and raisins. For vitamin C, reach for citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, peaches, and cantaloupe.
Vegetables Potatoes offer a wealth of potassium (one whole baked potato offers about as much as a banana), as do spinach, carrots, and ,mushrooms. Leafy greens like okra and kale provide ample amounts of calcium and magnesium, whose role in the fight against hyperstension is not yet clear. Just a half-cup of red pepper strips nets you more than a day's worth of vitamin C. Other good sources of Vitamin C include green peppers, kohlrabi, and tomaotes.
Dairy Foods Your best for calcium is low-fat dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. Calcium-fortified soy products offer blood-pressure benefits for people who can't or won't drink milk. Both dairy and soy products also contain hypertension-fighting magnesium. Some believe that potassium and protein account for dairy's ability to help lower blood pressure.
Herbs and Spices Instead of salt, cook with herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends to flavor food. For example, season lean beef with bay leaves, sage, or thyme. For Meat, try garlic and rosemary. Sprinkle some lemon juice and fresh minced garlic on steamed green beans. In fact, garlic deserves a regular place on the menu; studies show that it helps lower pressure.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Some people consider celery a good food for controlling hypertension because it has substances that relax blood vessel walls. The problem is that celery also contain a good deal of sodium (52 mg. per half-cup), which increases blood pressure in salt-sensitive people. In fact, it's believed that most people with hypertension are salt-sensitive. For them, celery is best avoided.