Nearly one in three adults have high blood pressure (29%)…
putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. High blood pressure is described as a “silent killer” because it often causes no symptoms, but may be the precursor to a fatal heart attack. Fortunately, a few common foods, available at any supermarket, have special properties that can help to lower high blood pressure or maintain blood pressure within the normal range.
The active ingredient in Garlic is allicin, which breaks down into a number of useful sulphur compounds when ingested. Garlic works in three ways to ensure healthy blood pressure. It is a natural blood thinner and anticoagulant. It also helps to prevent constriction of blood vessel walls. Finally, it is a natural ACE inhibitor. Blood pressure increases when the body produces a substance known as ACE (angiotensen converting enzyme). By blocking the formation of ACE, garlic helps to prevent blood pressure from rising. Crush or finely chop garlic to release the allicin and use it immediately to prevent the allicin from degrading.
Dark chocolate contains phytochemicals called flavanols. When consumed, flavanols increase the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates the blood vessel walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. It also protects the lining of the arteries. Several studies have shown that consumption of dark chocolate can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure. You can help to decrease your risk of heart disease by eating one small square of chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa every day.
Potatoes are high in potassium, which is necessary for balancing sodium levels in the body. Unfortunately, many people who eat a modern western diet are potassium deficient, a problem that can increase the risk of high blood pressure by up to 25%. It’s well known that too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure. Potassium helps the body to secrete excess sodium before it builds up in the bloodstream. A fifth of a potato’s nutrients are found in the skin, so a baked potato will provide more potassium than peeled potatoes. Other potassium rich foods include sweet potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, spinach and parsnips.
Melons contain an amino acid called L-citrulline, which improves blood flow and circulation. L-citrulline raises levels of another amino acid, L-arginine, which enhances blood vessel and arterial function. Research suggests that L-citrulline can help people with pre-hypertension (slightly raised blood pressure) from going on to develop high blood pressure and heart disease. All types of melons contain some L-citrulline, but the best source is watermelon. The amino acid can also be found in dairy products and liver.
Sardines are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which supports the production of eicosanoids. These hormones act as an anti-coagulate, thinning the blood so it can flow more efficiently. Eicosanoids also reduce inflammation by inhibiting the formation of proteins called cytokines. Both effects help to lower high blood pressure. Other oily fish rich in omega-3 include salmon, Albacore tuna, mussels, trout, and mackerel.
Including more heart-healthy foods in your diet will help to lower blood pressure, but other changes may be equally important. Factors that increase the risk of high blood pressure include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, heavy drinking and high stress levels. Living a more healthy lifestyle will help to keep your blood pressure in check and reduce your risk of life-threatening illnesses.