High blood pressure can creep up on you. There are few symptoms early on, and the health consequences of elevated blood pressure (hypertension) may not show up for years. However, a normal blood pressure is so important to your wellbeing that it’s one of the first things health care providers check every time you visit an office, urgent care, or hospital emergency room.
Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart disease, kidney damage, stroke, dementia and other life-altering medical conditions. However, blood pressure often responds quite favorably to relatively simple, but healthy, changes in your diet.
As primary care experts, the physicians at DOCCS are passionate about helping prevent your blood pressure from rising to unhealthy levels. This includes tweaking your diet so that the foods you eat regularly won’t negatively impact your blood pressure.
The biggest problem in most diets is salt. Don’t panic. We don’t ask you to remove all salt from your diet. Rather, the goal is to keep your daily intake within healthy levels. Only your doctor can say for sure what your much sodium intake should be, but the total generally ranges from 1500 mg to 2300 mg per day.
Take time to check nutrition labels carefully for sodium content, and try to avoid:
1. Bland foods that leave your taste buds longing for flavor
Sprinkling too much salt on your favorite foods (more accurately the sodium contained in salt), can worsen your blood pressure. It’s difficult, though, to stick to a bland diet. Fortunately, salt is not the only spice in your cupboard that can transform foods from lackluster to tempting.
Add flavor to foods without adding salt by using prepackaged spice blends that don’t include salt. Using salt-free rubs on lean meats before you cook adds flavor and can help keep meats juicy.
2. Canned soups
Soup can add nutritious value to any diet. Unfortunately, canned soups typically contain a significant amount of sodium, as high as 900 mg per serving. You can reach for low-salt alternatives on your grocer’s shelves, or make your own from a reduced-sodium recipe. Homemade puts you in control of sodium content.
3. Prepared tomato sauces
These, too, can add a significant amount of salt to your diet. Check the label, and cut your serving size. You could even start with fresh tomatoes at home. Just add garlic, oregano, and other spices as you cook.
4. Processed meats and fish
Deli meats, ham, canned fish, and packaged sandwich meats all go through a curing process that adds high levels of sodium to their nutrition label. Try roasting chicken, turkey, or other lean meats at home to slice for sandwiches.
Make your own if you want pizza that isn’t loaded with extra sodium from the bottom of its crust to the top of its typical add-ons. Cheese, processed meats such as pepperoni, and even the pizza sauce that starts it all can add high amounts of sodium to your daily intake with just one slice.
6. Premixed convenience foods
Though they may be handy to have around, premixed rice, pasta, and potato dishes can add unhealthy amounts of sodium to your diet. And, let’s face it, these foods may be convenient, but they rarely taste as good as homemade and may only save you 10 minutes of prep time.
7. Sugary beverages and foods
Sodas, teas, and foods containing excessive sugar are also linked to high blood pressure. Excessive alcohol use is another well-known link to high blood pressure.
Ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, and other popular condiments are often high in salt content. Many also contain other sodium-containing preservatives such as MSG. One tablespoon of regular soy sauce, for instance, has about 879 mg of sodium.
If you can’t tolerate the low-salt alternatives available, but don’t want to envision life without pickles, limit your portion to one or two slices (not spears), and include the total sodium content, 85-170 mg, in your daily numbers.
10. Some traditional breakfast foods and dairy products
Instant oatmeal adds unnecessary salt to your diet. Try the old-fashioned stovetop variety for a heart-healthy, low-sodium alternative. Cottage cheese has about 455 mg per ½ cup serving while an ounce of Swiss cheese supplies 75 mg of sodium. Greek yogurt has about half the sodium content of regular yogurt.
For more information about how to avoid high blood pressure, schedule an appointment at DOCCS today.