How Does Diet Impact Your Blood Pressure?

If you’re one of the 80 million Americans who have chronic high blood pressure, you’ll be happy to hear that the foods you eat can help lower your numbers. Of course, depending on your food choices, diet could also be contributing to your higher-than-healthy blood pressure numbers.

At Girard Internal Medicine, we’re committed to helping patients in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, live healthier lives with lower blood pressure. Nicole Kimzey, DO, and our compassionate care team offers help for patients dealing with hypertension, including diagnostic and treatment services.   

Dr. Kimzey also understands the importance of patient education, so we’ve put together this informative guide to help you better understand the link between your diet and blood pressure. Read on to learn more! 

Why is hypertension troublesome?

Hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, is troublesome since it’s highly correlated to serious and life-threatening medical conditions, like heart disease and stroke. Doctors sometimes call hypertension the “Silent Killer” because it can take years to develop and doesn’t typically have any noticeable symptoms, yet it causes major damage to your heart and blood vessels. 

It’s essential to have your blood pressure evaluated at your routine physical exam at least once a year to ensure your blood pressure is healthy and well managed. If Dr. Kimzey tells you your blood pressure is high, don’t wait to do something about it. Taking control of high blood pressure early can prevent additional damage to your cardiovascular system.

How does diet impact my blood pressure?

Some people have high blood pressure for no identifiable reason, but typically high blood pressure is linked to unhealthy behaviors, such as consuming foods high in sodium. When you’re overweight or obese, your risk of having or developing high blood pressure dramatically increases

The extra pounds you carry take a toll on your heart since it has to work harder to circulate blood throughout your body and use extra force to pump your blood. This added force is what causes your blood pressure to rise. Since the foods you eat are what lead to becoming overweight or obese, your diet has a big impact on your blood pressure

Can I lower my blood pressure through diet?

The factors that contribute to chronic high blood pressure build over time, so early intervention and treatment are key steps in reducing complications and improving your overall health. It’s important to have regular visits with Dr. Kimzey and get your blood pressure evaluated at least once per year.

The foods you eat have a big impact on your blood pressure and overall heart health and making dietary changes can help improve your numbers. Here are Dr. Kimzey’s top tips:   

1. Avoid processed foods

While packaged goodies can be tasty, they’re also loaded with things that make your blood pressure rise, like sodium, which can cause serious damage to your cardiovascular system over time.  If the food you’re thinking about eating comes in a box, bag, or package, put it back on the shelf if you want to lower your blood pressure. 

2. Load up on fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables come loaded with the things your body needs to keep your heart healthy, like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Instead of thinking of fruits and veggies as only snacks or side dishes, consider making them the main dish to lower your blood pressure.  

3. Choose whole grains

Instead of grains made from refined grains, look for carbohydrate-based foods (e.g., pasta, bread, rice) made from whole grains. These whole-grain options give you more fiber and nutrients, and their natural fat content is lower. In other words, choosing whole grains is better for your waistline and your blood pressure.  

4. Add in legumes and beans

Did you know that legumes and beans have phytochemicals, which help protect you against cardiovascular disease? What’s more, these foods are great sources of lean protein, potassium, and magnesium. Add foods made from healthy soybeans, like tofu and tempeh, to your diet. Incorporate legumes and beans, like black beans or lentils, to your salads, soups, and other main dishes. 

5. Reduce your use of fats and oils

To improve your blood pressure, work at reducing your use of fats and oils, and focus on healthier fats that come from whole, plant-based sources, like avocados. Try to stay away from saturated and trans fats, which are found in meat, butter, cheese, milk, cream, and eggs. 

6. Stay away from sugar

Refined sugar is linked to many health problems, including hypertension. Keep your heart healthy by staying away from sugar. If you’re craving something sweet, go for foods sweetened with natural sugars, like fruit.

Ready to learn more about the link between diet and blood pressure? Contact the team at Girard Internal Medicine to request an appointment at our Philadelphia office today.

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