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Reducing Blood Pressure

We like to think that there is safety in numbers. If we’re all dealing with the same problems, those problems seem less scary, right? Well, when it comes to health, this kind of mentality works against us. Just because one in three people have high blood pressure (according to the CDC) doesn’t mean it is okay. High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against your artery walls. It’s normal for this number to fluctuate throughout the day, but it can lead to serious health problems if it remains elevated for long stretches of time.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: Systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the pressure in your vessels when your heart is beating. Diastolic represents the pressure when your heart is at rest.

You’re at risk for high blood pressure if you are obese, a smoker or an alcoholic. Change your risk factors and you can reduce your chances of having hypertension.

Here are some basic ways you can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level:

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Exercise regularly

  • Don’t smoke, and limit alcohol use

Some studies have shown that other small changes to our diets may have an impact on our risk for developing high blood pressure.

Avoid fructose – A July 2010 Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN) study suggests that cutting back on the sugar, specifically fructose, may decrease your risk for developing hypertension. Researchers found that people who consumed 74 grams of fructose or more each day had a 77% higher risk for blood pressure levels of 160/100.

Get more potassium – A September 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine study found that increasing dietary potassium may be as effective as halving sodium intake. Imagine what would happen if you did both…

Enjoy a little chocolate – According to the results of a June 2010 BMC Medicine review, eating dark chocolate may significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. Just be sure it isn’t packed with sugar and preservatives.

 

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