Hypertension is the world’s leading cause of cardiovascular disease and premature death. High blood pressure affects an estimated 31% of adults worldwide (1.39 billion people).
However, high blood pressure is a modifiable risk factor. That means, that unlike genetic risk factors, it can be improved by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Eating the right foods can not only reduce blood pressure, but it can also reverse hypertension altogether.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or are at a higher risk of developing it due to existing health conditions or a family history of hypertension, eating foods that reduce blood pressure is a great way to improve your health.
Can food reduce blood pressure?
A change of diet is one of the leading ways to treat high blood pressure, and has been shown to be as effective as the first-line prescription medication for hypertension.
Doctors often recommend switching to a heart-healthy diet as the first step in the treatment of high blood pressure. Eating foods that reduce blood pressure helps people to continue experiencing positive health benefits in the long term, rather than simply managing their hypertension with medication.
Reducing blood pressure without the need for medication is the driving concept behind the DASH diet, which focuses on eating heart-healthy foods to lower blood pressure.
Foods that reduce blood pressure
The reason that certain foods reduce blood pressure is because they are rich in vitamins, nutrients, minerals and plant compounds that help to make sure your heart is in good working order.
Foods that lower blood pressure tend to be those that are high in:
- Omega 3 fats
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Potassium-rich foods to lower blood pressure
Research shows that eating foods that are rich in potassium can help to reduce blood pressure, both in people with hypertension and those with healthy blood pressure.
Foods that are rich in potassium include:
Magnesium-rich foods to lower blood pressure
Various studies have shown that a higher intake of magnesium helps to significantly reduce blood pressure. One of the ways that it does this is by preventing calcium from moving into the heart and arteries, allowing them to relax and improve blood flow.
Foods that are rich in magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
Arginine-rich foods to lower blood pressure
Arginine is a type of amino acid that is important for regulating blood flow. It’s needed to produce nitric oxide, which helps to relax blood vessels, allowing them to expand, so blood can flow more easily. This means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to push blood through your body.
Foods that are rich in arginine include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dairy products
Omega 3-rich foods to lower blood pressure
The link between Omega 3 and good heart health has been known for many years. It was first discovered when research showed that communities where fish is the main source of food have a very low mortality rate from coronary heart disease. Omega 3 helps to reduce inflammation, improve the elasticity of the arteries and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
Foods that are rich in Omega 3 include:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Foods to avoid to lower blood pressure
As well as making sure to eat the right food to lower blood pressure, there are also foods that should be avoided.
While simply increasing intake of the foods that lower blood pressure can have a noticeable impact on hypertension, it’s recommended to do this alongside limiting the amount of the following foods.
Foods high in sodium
Salty or processed foods can be damaging to your heart health and increase your blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, or 6g of salt.
Foods that are high in sodium include:
- Salted snacks
- Cured meats
- Ready meals
- Prepackaged sauces
- Pickled vegetables
Foods high in saturated fat
Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products, such as meat and dairy products. High levels of saturated fat can cause your body to produce too much cholesterol, which we’ll look at below.
The recommended daily intake of saturated fat is no more than 30g for men and 20g for women.
Foods that are high in saturated fat include:
- Fatty meats
- Biscuits, cakes and pastries
Foods high in cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Cholesterol is found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and shellfish. Most people don’t actually consume that much cholesterol as part of their diet, but if you have hypertension, avoiding these foods may help to reduce your blood pressure.
Foods that are high in cholesterol include:
- Full-fat dairy products
- Fatty or processed meat
- Liver and kidneys
- Egg yolks
Monitor your blood pressure
If you’re planning to supplement your diet with foods that reduce blood pressure, regularly checking your blood pressure can help to monitor your progress.
Take a look at our blood pressure monitor buying guide to find out more about purchasing a blood pressure monitor for home use.