Nutrition-Bites-Hype-Over-Hypertension

Nutrition Bites: Hype Over Hypertension

About 70 million Americans have it, and in 2013, it was the primary or contributing cause of death for 360,000 Americans. The "it" is hypertension also known as high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps. When the pressure is consistently too high it is called "hypertension" or high blood pressure which creates an environment where the heart is working extra hard. Life threatening complications can result from high blood pressure like heart and kidney disease, stroke and heart attack. There are a number of causes for high blood pressure such as diabetes, smoking, family history, obesity, age, inactivity and poor diet. Unfortunately, high blood pressure does not have warning signs and oftentimes people do not realize they have it. Blood pressure can easily be affected by food. Eating too much salt can cause the body to retain extra fluid making it difficult for the heart to pump, causing high blood pressure.

Since May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, as well as National Stroke Awareness Month, here are some tips to lower sodium in the diet and lower blood pressure:

o Watch out for The Salty 6: Breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, poultry, pizza, soups and sandwiches. These foods may not seem to be high in sodium but they are often prepared in ways that can add tons of sodium to the diet.
o Read the food label for sodium percentages. Sometimes food advertisements can be misleading. A good rule of thumb – if the % Daily Value for sodium is 20% or more per serving, it is considered to be high in sodium.
o Eat more fruits and vegetables. Choose fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables (choose the low sodium or no added salt canned version). These foods are naturally very low in sodium and offer tons of nutritional benefits that can lower blood pressure.
o Ditch the salt shaker. Instead, use herbs and spices to enhance the flavors of food. Lemon juice, garlic and onion powder are great on poultry, lean meats, soups and vegetables. The late Chef Paul Prudhomme even has a spice line that is salt-free and great for cooking anything.
o Exercise daily. Incorporate some physical activity every day. Try to include cardio and weight training, even if it is only for 10 minutes. Every little bit extra counts!

These few changes can help to lower and control high blood pressure and prevent complications of hypertension. More resources about prevention and treatment of high blood pressure can be found on the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Finally, the surefire way to ensure that blood pressure is controlled is to test frequently either by a health professional or with an at-home blood pressure monitor. Blood pressure screening locations are available at many retail pharmacies, like Walgreens and CVS, or your local community clinic or doctor's office.

For more information and tips visit:
millionhearts.hhs.gov
www.heart.org
www.cdc.gov
www.nhlbi.nih.gov

By Rachel Pfister, Dietetic Intern, Tulane University

(Nutrition Bites is a recurring feature that appears regularly in the Tulane PRC's e-newsletters and covers nutrition and health tips. If you have any suggestions for Nutrition Bites topics, please contact Naomi Englar at nking2@tulane.edu or 504-988-7410.)

Topics:   diet , nutrition , physical activity

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