Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Diet holds keys to reducing blood pressure

I was doing what any self-respecting dietitian does with friends at the beach . . . reading the label on the bag of corn chips. I was surprised that this particular brand was lower in sodium than other snack foods I've seen.

"I've tried to follow a low sodium diet to lower my blood pressure," my friend said. "It's tough."

And having high blood pressure is tougher. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the cause of more than 60 percent of strokes and almost half of all heart-related medical problems in the world, according to Dr. Lawrence Appel, who investigates dietary treatments to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

"Multiple dietary factors affect blood pressure," he says. "And we have every reason to believe that lower blood pressure is better."

Who benefits from these strategies? We all do, Appel says. Young people, old people. People with high blood pressure. People with normal blood pressure. And interestingly, African-Americans seem especially sensitive to the blood pressure lowering effects of reduced salt intake, increased potassium intake and the DASH diet.

So back to our picnic. Sandwiches made with whole grain bread (check), tuna (right-o), sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach (good job). Our drinks were unsweetened and I swear we just had a couple of mint cookies . . . and a few munches of corn chips. Maybe it's not as tough as we thought.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

Here are the most current recommendations:

1. Lose weight.

Weight loss — even a modest weight loss of 10 pounds or so — lowers blood pressure, according to results from several clinical trials.

2. Cut the sodium.

Easier said than done, considering that 77 percent of the sodium chloride (salt) we eat comes from processed convenience foods. We need to eat fewer of these foods to stay within the recommended 1500 milligrams of sodium a day for good blood pressure control.

3. Eat more potassium.

More than 30 clinical trials have shown lower blood pressures in people who eat more potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. (Note: People with kidney disease may need to restrict potassium in their diets.)

4. Follow the DASH diet.

"Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." This diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables (high in potassium) and low-fat dairy foods (calcium may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, too). It also includes whole grains, nuts, poultry and fish and goes easy on fat, red meat and sugar. Several randomized controlled feeding trials found that this eating strategy significantly lowered blood pressure in as little as two weeks.

5. Cut back on alcohol.

Blood pressure is "dose-dependent" on alcohol intake . . . the more you drink, the higher your blood pressure. Cutting out alcohol or reducing intake to less than two drinks a day (men) or one drink a day (women) is an effective way to lower blood pressure, experts say. Remember that one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

6. Eat fewer carbs.

Recent studies looking to improve the DASH eating style have found that a little more protein or monounsaturated fat and a little less sugar and starch helped lower blood pressure even more than the traditional DASH diet.

7. Be more active.

Exercise combined with the DASH eating pattern can result in weight loss, a triple bonus strategy to reduce blood pressure.

Diet holds keys to reducing blood pressure 11/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 8:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.