Although high blood pressure is not a serious health concern in its own right, it can lead to a number of other health complications, and as such, needs to be carefully controlled. Blood pressure is the force with which blood pushes against the walls of the arteries containing it. If this happens for prolonged periods of time, it can cause a lot of damage to the body, including heart problems, strokes and kidney failure. The US National Heart and Lung Institute suggests that 1 in 3 American adults in the UK have high blood pressure, often without even realising it.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that high blood pressure can be controlled, by exercising and eating healthily. Although research is still ongoing, the following foods should be avoided, or at least seriously reduced, by those with high blood pressure.
Most people are aware of the dangers of consuming too much salt, even if they don’t really know why. The Cleveland Clinic explains this very well by pointing out that much of salt is sodium, which is primarily what causes blood pressure to soar. When the body takes in sodium, it has be retain extra water to wash the salt out and this can result in high blood pressure. The daily salt allowance for an adult should be less than 1,500mg, according to the American Heart Association. This is less than a teaspoon of salt a day, something that most people exceed on a regular basis. Sufferers should try substituting other forms of flavouring, such as herbs and spices, rather than salt.
Overly processed foods
High blood pressure sufferers really need to avoid overly processed foods as far as possible. These are generally high in salt, for both preservative and taste purposes. Processed foods to avoid include tinned foods, ready meals, deli meats, potato chips and peanuts. By keeping a food diary and ensuring that you read the labels of suspect foodstuffs, you should be able to cut down on your intake of sodium. Best of all, ensure that everything you eat is cooked by yourself – that way you can judge exactly how much salt is going into it.
Another thing to avoid as far as possible is restaurant food. A 2011 MSNBC article by Dave Zinczenco points out that 80% of sodium in American people’s diet comes from restaurant food. Some of the primary culprits are Chinese food, which often contains monosodium glutamate, and any foods which have been pre-prepared. The article points out, for example, that Chili’s Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger with Ranch Dressing has a massive 6,600mg of sodium, which is the equivalent of 6.5 Big Macs! Diet menus are not to be trusted either; they may have cut down on the fat content of the meal, but not necessarily the sodium.
Research has shown that blood pressure tends to rise with weight gain. It therefore stands to reason that cutting down on saturated fats and cholesterol in particular is a necessity for those with high blood pressure. Foods to particularly stay clear of include full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, fried foods, greasy snack foods and anything else with a high fat content. Of course, sugary foods, which can contribute to weight gain, should also be avoided. Many doctors recommend the DASH diet for blood pressure sufferers, which focuses on low-fat healthy eating with plenty of grains and fibre.
Alcoholic beverages and caffeine
According to the Mayo Clinic, other foods and drinks to avoid are anything that contains alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol has been shown to lower blood pressure in very small amounts, but many people drink far above the recommended amount of one unit per day for women and two for men, which can raise blood pressure. Binge drinking is particularly troublesome, because it causes sudden spikes in blood pressure. The link between blood pressure and caffeine is less clear, but there are some indications that it can raise blood pressure in some people. In any case, for general health purposes, doctors recommend cutting down on caffeine to no more than two cups of coffee a day.
Whether you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or not, making some changes to your diet and that of your family are advisable. The above recommendations for foods to avoid are merely a guide; for more information, you should always consult your doctor.