Humans like to think there's safety in numbers; if people are all dealing with the same problems, those problems often aren't as scary, right? Well when it comes to health, this kind of mentality doesn't work. Just because one in three people has high blood pressure (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) doesn’t mean it's okay.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against artery walls. It’s normal for this number to fluctuate throughout the day, but it can lead to serious health problems if it remains elevated for long stretches of time.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the pressure in blood vessels when the heart is beating. Diastolic represents the pressure when you’re the heart is at rest.
You’re at risk for high blood pressure if you are obese, a smoker or an alcoholic. Change your risk factors and you can reduce your chances of having hypertension.
Here are some basic ways to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol consumption
Some studies have shown that other small changes in diet may also affect people's risk for developing high blood pressure.
Avoid fructose. A July 2010 study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggests that cutting back on sugar, specifically fructose, may decrease the risk of developing hypertension. Researchers found that people who consumed 74 grams of fructose or more each day had a 77 percent higher risk for blood pressure levels of 160/100, which is considered hypertension.
Get more potassium. A September 2010 study published in the journal the Archives of Internal Medicine study found that increasing dietary potassium may be as effective as halving sodium intake. Imagine what would happen if you did both.
Enjoy a little chocolate. Eating dark chocolate may significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, according to a June 2010 review in the journal BMC Medicine. Just be sure the chocolate isn’t packed with sugar and preservatives.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!