Five on Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent the "Silent Killer"
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Five On Friday

Five On Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent the "Silent Killer"

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. A normal blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure, known as Hypertension, means the pressure in your arteries is above range. Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 on two readings. The top number (systolic pressure) refers to the blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood; and indicates the severity of your high blood pressure. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) refers to the blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
High Blood Pressure is known as the "Silent Killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms. However, the effect on your body can be life threatening over time; it’s dangerous because it makes your heart work too hard and can cause damage to your blood vessels, kidneys, brain and eyes. Currently 1 in 3 Americans suffer from high blood pressure.

Here are 5 diet modifications to prevent and/or treat high blood pressure:

Reducing dietary sodium intake is a huge change that can treat high blood pressure. When you eat too much salt (which contains sodium), your body holds onto extra water to wash the salt from your body. This added water puts stress on your heart and blood vessels. Recommendations: 2,300 mg sodium per day (if you are older than 50, African American or have Hypertension, Diabetes or Kidney Disease your goal is 1,500 mg sodium per day). The average American consumes 3,600 mg sodium per day. Read labels closely so you know how much salt is in the foods you consume. Salt is found in boxed and canned foods, sauces, smoked foods, pickles, cheese, bread, cereal, lunch meat, salad dressing, soup and many restaurant foods.

Many with high blood pressure say: “But…I don’t add salt to anything!” (1 teaspoon of salt = 2,300 mg of sodium!) However, here’s a quick look at how quickly sodium can add up in a typical “healthy” diet even if you don't add salt:

Breakfast: 1 egg, 1 piece wheat bread with 1 TB peanut butter, 1 cup skim milk, banana (417 mg sodium)
Snack: ½ cup cottage cheese (390 mg sodium)
Lunch: 6” Subway turkey sandwich (turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion, provolone on 9 grain wheat) and apple slices (790 mg sodium)
Snack: 17 tiny pretzel twists (450 mg sodium)
Dinner: 6 oz baked chicken breast, 1 cup wheat pasta noodles, ½ cup marinara sauce, 1 piece wheat bread with 1 teaspoon butter, small vegetable salad with 2 TB vinaigrette dressing (997 mg sodium)
Total: 3064 mg sodium

Bananas are high in potassium! Potassium offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure.
When you eat a potassium rich diet your body becomes more efficient at getting rid of excess sodium. Aim for 4,700 mg per day. Other high potassium foods include: apricots, artichokes, avocado, banana, beets, okra, oranges, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, dates, figs, leafy greens, mushrooms, raisins, prunes, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, cantaloupe, nectarines, beans, squash, bran, nuts and seeds. Natural sources of potassium are preferable over supplements.

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium! Magnesium is an essential mineral that contributes to maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Magnesium supplementation is not recommended, but adding foods high in magnesium can help. Aim for 500 mg per day. High magnesium foods include: seeds, nuts, beans, leafy greens, fish, sweet potatoes, brown rice, avocados, low fat dairy, bananas, dried fruit and dark chocolate. 1 cup of pumpkin seeds = almost 1/2 your daily needs!

An increased intake of calcium may have a protective role in the risk for high blood pressure. Choose calcium from food, not supplements. Consume low fat dairy (milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt) or calcium fortified foods for high amounts of calcium. Most leafy green vegetables are also naturally high in calcium. Make sure to meet the Adequate Intake for calcium based on your age (Men 19-70 1,000 mg, Women 19-50 1,000 mg, Women/Men 70+ 1,200 mg).
Beans are chock full of fiber which has been known to help lower blood pressure. Fiber also adds bulk to your diet without adding calories which helps with long term weight loss. Losing 5-10% of your body weight (if overweight) has a huge impact on blood pressure. Add unsalted beans (black, soy, garbanzo, white, navy, lima, pinto, and kidney) regularly to your meal plan. Aim for 20-35 grams of fiber daily.