Foods that can help to lower high blood pressure

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While its common knowledge that reducing your salt, intake can significantly lower your blood pressure.  Are you aware that weight loss can help to lower your risk of developing high blood as well? Losing even 5kg’s can lower your blood pressure. More importantly losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension. Another unknown fact is that consuming foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium may also help prevent or normalize high blood pressure?  The good news is that you can start eating better right away because there are a lot of foods available locally that are rich in these nutrients.

If you have or know someone with high blood pressure, are you aware of the complications that can develop over time? Certain conditions may develop as a result of blood vessel damage which can happen over time in those with uncontrolled high blood pressure. They include kidney disease and liver disease, heart disease or stroke. An ideal blood pressure in a healthy adult is a reading below 120 systolic or 80 diastolic that is 120/80. In most cases a reading between 120/80 to 140/90 is still however considered acceptable. But if it’s on the higher end, it may also be a sign of pre-hypertension.  Pre-hypertension means you have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure later on in life. It is therefore very important to get your blood pressure checked more often.

While there is no single food that can lower your blood pressure on it’s own, consuming a more balanced diet that contains some or all the food mentioned below can help

Watermelon

We love watermelon because it is sweet and tastes like a treat, yet it is very low in calories. Its other great attributes include being high in fiber, very hydrating, and rich in nutrients. Studies show that watermelon may even help to lower your blood pressure, too. This is a native African fruit and is widely available all over Africa and it is easy obtain especially in the summer months. By consuming watermelon after meals on a daily basis for three weeks, you will increase the levels of arginine in your body which has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure. Watermelon also helps to lower your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Cucumber

In most African countries, cucumbers are widely available. Cucumbers belong to the same family as watermelon, pumpkin, zucchini and squash vegetables. Try to consume fresh cucumber instead of pickled (which can be high in sodium). Cucumbers contain a lot of fiber, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients are very effective in regulating blood pressure. As such cucumber is useful in treating both high blood pressure and low blood pressure because of its stabilizing ability.

Whole grains

Africa has an abundance of whole grains which are wonderful at lowering blood pressure. Such grains include millet, sorghum, barley, bulgur and African brown rice. These grains can also lower cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. These grains should be consumed whole beacuse refining leads to the striping of fiber and makes the grain less useful.

Leafy greens

Most leafy greens like spinach or kale are not only low in calories, they are also high in fiber, and packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, folate, and magnesium. These are key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. You can consume these veggies as a side with your meal or get creative and make it into a salad.

Bananas

Eating foods that are rich in potassium is better than taking supplements. Slice a banana into your cereal or porridge for a potassium-rich addition to your meal. You can also take one to go along with a boiled egg for a quick breakfast or snack.

Red beets

Beets are high in nitric oxide, which can help open your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that the nitrates in beetroot juice lowered research participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours. You can juice your own beets or simply cook and eat the whole root. Beetroot is delicious when roasted or added to stir-fries and stews. Beets are easy to grow and are packed with nutrition.

Reduce Salt intake

As important as it is to focus on consuming more of the food listed above it is also important to cut down or eliminate certain foods from your diet that could be increasing your blood pressure. Eating lots of salt makes your body store a lot of water which in turn increases blood pressure. The recommendation is about 2300mg of sodium per day, which means try to consume as little salt as possible.  Other foods to avoid include coffee or drinks high in caffeine (which can temporarily cause a sharp increase in your blood pressure), avoid refined sugar, fatty foods, smoking and alcohol.

Say NO to fast food and salty snacks…

What you eat affects your chances of getting high blood pressure. A healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower a blood pressure that is already too high. Dietary recommendations for lowering blood pressure, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, include reducing your intake of fat, sodium, and alcohol. Increased consumption of fast foods and high salt foods such as bacon and sausages and fatty snacks such as chips and popcorns significantly increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. Maintaining a DASH diet for two weeks can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) by 8-14 points. In general, you should eat more low-fat protein sources, whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as exercise 30 mins as day. The DASH guidelines also suggest eating more foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Check out the links below to learn more about the DASH diet.

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf

https://medlineplus.gov/dasheatingplan.html

https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hypertension/Lifestyle-changes/Using-the-Dash-diet-in-South-Africa-20120721

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