Do you have all the facts about hypertension? Help shoppers find foods good for our heart and circulatory system.
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is known as the silent killer because it has virtually no symptoms. Years of elevated blood pressure increases the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke. High blood pressure has also been linked to a decline in cognitive function in otherwise healthy adults, starting in their late teens! Although researchers say the decline in cognitive function is relatively minor and manageable, they stress the importance of controlling blood pressure throughout our lives (we should all be able to remember where we put our glasses!). This certainly extends what has been viewed as a problem of the elderly to all adults!
Sodium is usually the first target for those hoping to control their blood pressure, as the standard American diet (SAD) contains a hefty amount of sodium rich foods (i.e. fast food, take-out and frozen entrees - although the industry is currently in the process of reducing the sodium content of many foods). But sodium isn’t entirely to blame; controlling blood pressure is about balancing minerals, especially potassium and sodium. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes, which means they conduct electricity when dissolved in water; the 'potential' they create controls cellular communication and maintains health. Because many of us consume more sodium than potassium, it is important to increase the amount of potassium rich foods in our diets - vegetables!. Magnesium is also an important mineral contributing to this balance, as well as helping with relaxation and toning the circulatory system.
Fortunately, there are a whole host of foods found in the supermarket that are good for our heart and circulatory system. A diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein and healthy fats including omega-3s - is a great way to keep our electrolyte balance in check. Cooking from scratch at home, planning ahead, and packing a lunch can help eliminate excessive intake of sodium, as can making it a habit to always read labels and choosing products low in sodium.
So what are some of the best foods for taking care of our vessels?
Pomegranate, dried apricots, avocados, dried figs, blueberries, acorn squash, baked potatoes, kidney beans and other legumes, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, bananas, chocolate (not sugary chocolate bars!), whole grains, raisins, beets, dark leafy greens, and the list goes on and on. Browse the produce section of your local grocery store for the most colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables and if your favorites are out of season, check the frozen aisles for nutrient rich, most of the time less expensive, fruits and vegetables (do make sure there are no additives), or go ahead and try something new in the produce section.
Don't forget to get moving!
Exercise has also been shown to reduce blood pressure. Add a few more steps into your day by parking farther and taking the stairs more often. Engage in a stretch routine from a wheelchair or chair, take a brisk twenty-minute walk and if you can, move up to tennis, swimming or bicycling. Try to alternate cardio with weight bearing exercises. You’ll live better, with more vigor, and burn up your calories much more effectively, you will have less trouble remembering where you put the keys, and not to mention, your heart will thank you!
As always, consult your physician before making any changes to your diet.
Sources include: University Of Maine. High Blood Pressure Related Decline In Cognitive Function Affects Adults Young And Old.