Hypertension, Diet & Lifestyle
The circulatory system is the “highway” of our bodies. It delivers nutrients and moves wastes to be moved out of our bodies. The pressure of blood flowing against the walls of your arteries is blood pressure. Normally, blood pressure will rise and fall throughout the day, however if it remains elevated for a long time it can damage the heart and other parts of our body. Uncontrolled blood pressure can ultimately cause stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, heart failure and sexual disfunction. Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is higher than normal.
Blood Pressure Levels: Blood Pressure Category
Systolic mm Hg (Upper Number)
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number)
Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80 Elevated 120-129 and Less than 80 High Blood Pressure- Stage 1
130-139 or 80-89
High Blood Pressure- Stage 2
140 or higher or 90 or higher
Higher than 180
Higher than 120
Risk Factors for hypertension include: Modifiable Risks Non-Modifiable Risks Smoking, second-hand smoke, Diabetes, Being obese or overweight, high cholesterol, poor diet, and inactivity
Family history, race/ethnicity, sleep apnea, male gender, chronic kidney disease and advancing age.
General Nutrition Guidelines: Consuming a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products but low
in saturated fats and trans fats is helpful to improve blood pressure levels. Salt intake, specifically sodium consumption should be limited. 1,500 mg/day of Na/Salt is a good goal
to work toward, but limiting to 1,000mg/day may be even more helpful to regulate blood pressure. Limiting processed foods which tend to be high in salt is a good way to start. Check with your doctor and dietitian for the level that is best for you.
Increasing potassium intake to 3,000 to 5,000 mg per day is also beneficial. Speak with your doctor regarding alcohol consumption. Generally, it is advised for men to limit
consumption to drinks per day and one drink per for women.
Foods to Choose Foods to Limit/Avoid Breads: whole wheat breads, unsalted breads, and rolls
Breads or rolls with salted tops, packaged stuffing, biscuits, corn bread, bread crumb mixes
Cereals: regular cooked cereals, puffed wheat, puffed rice and shredded wheat cereals
Instant cereals, regular ready to eat cereals
Crackers& snacks: unsalted crackers and snacks and unsalted peanut butter
Salted crackers and snacks, party spreads & dips, regular peanut butter
Pasta, rice & potatoes: all types Pre-made, processed, canned, frozen Dried beans& peas: all types Pre-made, processed, canned Meats& alternatives: fresh or frozen, low Na canned varieties
Salted, smoked, canned, spiced, pickled, flavored, marinated, processed, frozen dinners, cold cuts, luncheon meats, meat pies.
Fruits & Vegetables: fresh or low sodium canned or frozen, low Na canned varieties
Canned products, frozen products with sauces or flavoring
Dairy products: milk, cream sour cream, yogurt, low Na cottage cheese, low Na cheeses
Buttermilk, processed cheeses, slices and spreads, regular cheeses and cottage cheeses
Fats & oils: unsalted margarine, regular butter, or mayonnaise, cooking oils, salt free gravies, low Na salad dressings and sauces * limit for healthy eating
Bacon fat/grease, salt pork, gravies and commercial salad dressing and sauces
Soups: salt free soup and low sodium bouillon cubes Regular canned or prepared soups, stews, broths, bouillon and packaged frozen soups
Desserts: sherbet, fruit ices, gelatin, pudding, ice cream, marmalade, jelly, jam and honey *limit for healthy eating
Commercially prepared and packaged baked goods and chocolate candies
Beverages: coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit flavored drinks without Na
Carbonated beverages with Na or salt added; softened water
Condiments: fresh & dried herbs, low Na products, vinegar, lemon, lime, seasoning blends without salt
Table salt and any form of salt, bouillon cubes, MSG, meat extra, Worcestershire Sauce, tarter sauce, ketchup, chili sauce
Exercise: Physical activity and losing weight with diet and movement may help reduce blood pressure. 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous per week or a combination of both may be helpful for overall health. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
Medications: Sometimes medications will be prescribed to help control your blood pressure. It is important to take medications as directed. These may include ones that diuretics, which help eliminate sodium and water from the body, ACE inhibitors (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) & ARBs (Angiotensin II receptor blockers), which relax the blood vessels and decrease narrowing, and Calcium channel blockers which work on the muscle of the blood vessels. (Grapefruit should be avoided with Calcium channel blockers) Other medication may be added if blood pressure does not improve.
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