Heart Health: National Blood Pressure Month

Happy National Blood Pressure Month!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.  Blood Pressure Month is a time to educate the public on ways they can decrease their risk of becoming hypertensive and improve their blood pressure if it is elevated.

Individuals should aim for a systolic blood pressure (the top number) less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) less than 80 mmHg. Your risk for developing high blood pressure increases with age and varies by race.  Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, as well as damage to your arteries, heart muscles, and many other vital body parts.  Luckily, small lifestyle improvements can help manage your blood pressure.

Staying active can have a positive impact on blood pressure.  Physical activity strengthens your heart muscle, allowing it to work efficiently, and helps you lose weight, which can help lower your blood pressure. Continued activity can help maintain your systolic and diastolic blood pressure as you get older.  Be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. It is important to listen to your body and stop if it is difficult to breathe, you have pain in your arm or jaw, or you feel dizzy.

Decrease the amount of sodium you are consuming.  A general rule of thumb is to not eat more than 1 teaspoon (the size of the tip of your thumb!), or 2,300 milligrams, of salt each day.  Watch out for frozen and prepared meals (such as “lean cuisines,”) fast food, soups, packaged deli meats, condiments such as soy sauce and pre-made marinades, and canned vegetables.  Rinsing and draining canned vegetables and purchasing low or no sodium versions of these items can drastically reduce the amount of sodium they contain. Try using Mrs. Dash, lemon juice, garlic and onion (whole or powders), bell peppers, tomatoes, or other seasonings to enhance the flavor of your dishes without adding salt.

Eat more fruits and vegetables – especially ones high in potassium.  Potassium counteracts sodium in the body, decreasing blood pressure. So when you eat healthy fruits and vegetables, you are giving your body weapons to fight back against high blood pressure and sodium!  Leafy greens, apricots, avocados, and bananas are all excellent sources of potassium, but most fruits and vegetables can help.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as an effective way to lower blood pressure.  This eating plan encourages followers to reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day and increase fruit and vegetable intake. It also calls for more whole grains, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, and poultry and less sugary sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats. For more information about this diet visit www.dashdiet.org.

Drink more water. Yet another way that water helps our bodies – staying hydrated can also contribute to healthy blood pressure.  When you are dehydrated, your blood vessels constrict, making it more difficult to pump blood through them. Drinking water keeps blood vessels open, blood pressure regular, and your blood pumping properly.

Other ways to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range include quitting smoking, taking medications as prescribed, and maintaining a healthy weight.  Follow any instructions your doctor gives you and check-in with a HHO dietitian with any additional questions.

Recipes: Interested in some salt alternatives for your food?  Mix up some of these spice combinations and keep them on hand to season any dish to perfection:

Taco Seasoning:
1 T chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper

Steak Seasoning or Rub:
2 cloves garlic or 1 T garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp crushed dried rosemary

Poultry Seasoning:
1/4 cup dried parsley
2 T garlic powder
2 T rubbed sage
1 T dried rosemary, crushed
1 T dried marjoram
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground sage

Keep your heart healthy!
-Allison

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