Proven Nutrition Interventions to Reduce Your Blood Pressure
Nearly half of adults in the United States have hypertension, and only about 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have their condition under control. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association define elevated blood pressure as anything above 120/80.
Longstanding untreated hypertension elevates your risk for stroke, heart attack, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart failure, and more.
Whether or not an individual requires medical therapy to help lower their blood pressure, lifestyle and nutrition change is always recommended.
Dietary interventions are an ACC/AHA Class 1a recommendation for ALL patients
Here are some of the most impactful dietary changes to help reduce your blood pressure.
Eat a Plant-Predominant Diet
The DASH diet, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, provides a means to enhance intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. In hypertensive and nonhypertensive adults, the DASH diet has produced overall reductions in systolic blood pressure (SBP)of approximately 11 mm Hg and 3 mm Hg, respectively. When combined with weight loss, or a reduction in sodium intake, the effect size was substantially increased. Several other diets, including vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, or other dietary patterns that reduce calories and result in weight loss, have been shown to lower BP.
Sodium reduction interventions may prevent cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle change interventions usually reduce sodium intake by about 25% (approximately 1000 mg per day) and result in an average of about a 2–mm Hg to 3–mm Hg reduction in SBP in nonhypertensive individuals, though the reduction can be more than double this in more susceptible individuals, those with hypertension, and those concurrently on the DASH diet or receiving a weight loss intervention. Sodium reduction in adults with hypertension who are already being treated with BP-lowering medications further reduces SBP by about 3 mm Hg and can facilitate discontinuation of medication, although this requires maintenance of the lifestyle change and warrants careful monitoring. When combined with weight loss, the reduction in BP is almost doubled. A reduction in sodium intake may also lower SBP significantly in individuals with resistant hypertension who are taking multiple antihypertensive medication.
Increase Dietary Potassium Intake
Dietary potassium is inversely related to BP and hypertension in migrant studies, cross-sectional reports, and prospective cohort studies. Likewise, dietary potassium a high intake of fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower incidence of stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Because potassium-rich diets are those high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, soy products, they are preferred over use of pills for potassium supplementation. Four to five servings of fruits and vegetables will usually provide 1500 to >3000 mg of potassium. Increasing dietary potassium through fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, is recommended for adults with elevated BP or hypertension, unless contraindicated by the presence of CKD or use of drugs that reduce potassium excretion. All dietary changes should be made in consultation with your physician.
For more information on how other lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercise, and reducing alcohol intake can impact blood pressure, learn more here.
Dr. Belardo is a cardiologist in a multidisciplinary practice in Newport Beach, California. Dr. Belardo sees patients for cardiovascular disease, preventive cardiology, advanced lipidology, cardiometabolic health, and weight loss. She is the co-chair of the American Society of Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Committee, a member of the American College of Cardiology Nutrition and Lifestyle Committee, and the Communications Catalyst for the California Chapter of American College of Cardiology.
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