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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be prevented or controlled by diet and exercise, and doctors may recommend these lifestyle changes before prescribing medication.

The do’s and don’ts when it comes to nutrition are simple. But if you're making significant changes or have specific medical issues, you may want to consider nutritional counseling from a licensed professional.

Limit your intake of salt.

Read labels, as many processed foods, ranging from potato chips to bacon to canned soups, can be very high in sodium. In fact, most sodium and salt comes from pre-packaged and restaurant food, especially fast food. Ideally, eat less than 2,300 mg of salt and sodium a day, and less than 1,500 mg if you already have high blood pressure. 1,500 mgs of sodium is about 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt.

To limit salt, read labels and cook for yourself. Use pepper and spices to flavor food instead of salt. Some condiments, like soy sauce, are very high in sodium.

Eat foods rich in potassium.

Foods like Swiss chard, potatoes, bananas, avocados and cantaloupe are high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and counters a salty diet (see the full list of potassium-rich foods). Note that taking a diuretic can lower potassium levels in the body.

Maintain a healthy weight.

High blood pressure is the health condition that most commonly affects men and women who are overweight. One study of young adults by researcher Yehonatan Sharabi at the National Institutes of Health found that a one-point rise in BMI increases chances of developing hypertension by 16 percent.

Limit your alcohol consumption and do not smoke.

Studies have shown that binge drinking can raise blood pressure up to 20 points. Limit alcohol to one serving a day. Smoking narrows blood vessels and forces blood to push harder through the arteries, thus raising blood pressure.

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