According to The American Heart Association, high blood pressure, or hypertension, typically has no symptoms but can have deadly health consequences if not treated. About 76.4 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
By keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range, you are:
* Reducing your risk of the walls of your blood vessels walls becoming overstretched and injured
* Reducing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke; and developing heart failure, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease.
* Protecting your entire body so that your tissue receives regular supplies of blood that is rich in the oxygen it needs
We’ve compiled a list of ten foods that can help lower your blood pressure.
1. Dark Chocolate
Eating a one-ounce square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure, especially in people who already have hypertension, according to Harvard researchers who analyzed 24 chocolate studies. Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, natural compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels. Look for chocolates that say they contain 50 to 70 percent cacao, such as Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao dark chocolate squares.
If Japanese scientists are correct, the chicken used in chicken soup appears to have a high source of collagen proteins with effects similar to ACE inhibitors, linchpin medications for treating high blood pressure.
In a Japanese study, collagen taken from chicken legs was tested for its ability to act as an ACE inhibitor in the laboratory studies. They identified four different proteins in the collagen mixture with high ACE-inhibitory activity. Given to rats used to model human high blood pressure, the proteins produced a significant and prolonged decrease in blood pressure, the researchers say.
According to NPR, researchers at the Kagawa Nutrition University in Japan fed a diet consisting of 5 percent asparagus to rats with high blood pressure. As they report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, after 10 weeks, the rats on the asparagus diet had lower blood pressure than the ones fed a standard rat diet without asparagus.
“The rats on the asparagus diet also had less protein in their urine, a sign of a healthier kidney. And they had less activity of ACE, or angiotensin-converting enzyme. Drugs that reduce the activity of ACE are used to treat hypertension in humans.”
Just one serving of blueberries a week can help cut your risk of high blood pressure. Blueberries, as well as raspberries and strawberries, contain natural compounds called anthocyanins that protect against hypertension, according to a recent British and American study of about 157,000 men and women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
5. High-Fiber Cereals
Whole-grain, high-fiber cereals like oatmeal, oat squares, bran flakes or shredded wheat, can reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure, according to Harvard University researchers. Plus, the more servings of cereal you eat a week, the greater the benefits. Add to that the research on blueberries, and you could double your health rewards by topping your cereal with berries.
6. Baked Potato
A baked potato is high in potassium and magnesium, two important minerals that can help fight high blood pressure. Research shows that if Americans boosted their potassium intake, adult cases of high blood pressure could fall by more than 10 percent.
As for magnesium, many older Americans fail to get enough in their diet, according to the National Institutes of Health. So why not kill two birds with one food. In addition to baked potatoes, here are some other foods high in both these minerals: halibut, spinach, bananas, soybeans, kidney beans and plain nonfat yogurt.
7. Beet Juice
Drinking a glass of beet juice can lower blood pressure within just a few hours, according to a Queen Mary University of London study published last year in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. The nitrate in the juice has the same effect as taking a nitrate tablet, the researchers found. Beet juice can be found at some health food stores and specialty groceries such as Whole Foods. Other nitrate-rich foods include spinach, lettuce, cabbage, carrots and, of course, whole beets.
8. Skim Milk
Eating low-fat dairy products can reduce a woman’s risk of developing hypertension. That’s the conclusion of a 2008 study of nearly 30,000 women with an average age of 54. The women who ate the most low-fat dairy products — yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, skim or low-fat milk — were 11 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Nutritious and versatile, beans (including black, white, navy, lima, pinto, and kidney) are chock-full of soluble fiber, magnesium, and potassium, all excellent ingredients for lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health. Add beans to your favorite salads, soups, or wraps; as a bonus, they’re pretty inexpensive.
Spinach is low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, folate, and magnesium — key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. An easy way to eat more of this great green? Try mixing fresh spinach leaves into salads or adding them to sandwiches.