A nutritious diet and a healthful lifestyle can help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.
Nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure-often called a "silent killer" because it usually presents no symptoms. Blood pressure reflects the amount of blood your heart pumps and the resistance it meets in your arteries: the more blood, and the narrower and more rigid your arteries (healthy vessels are elastic), the higher your blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart has to work to do its job-which is why uncontrolled high blood pressure can sometimes lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Fortunately, eating a nutritious diet and leading an overall healthful lifestyle can help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range. The nutrition experts at EatingWell recommend the following steps to control blood pressure.
Aim for a healthy weight.
Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. When you gain weight, the amount of blood circulating through your body increases. This increases the pressure of blood flow against your artery walls, which puts added strain on your heart. Studies suggest that, if you're overweight, losing as little as 10 percent of your current weight can help lower your blood pressure. See High Blood Pressure Diet Recipes and Menus and Healthy Recipe Collections
Exercise makes your heart stronger so it can pump more blood with less effort. Research suggests that, for some people, regular exercise can improve blood pressure as much as some medications used to treat hypertension. Daily physical activity also can help prevent a "normal" blood pressure from creeping into a risky range-which often happens as one ages. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily. And stick with it: the benefits last only as long as you maintain your exercise regime.
DASH toward balanced eating.
Studies show that following an eating regime that medical experts call the DASH diet (its formal name is "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension") helps lower blood pressure. The nutritionally balanced plan includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and several daily servings of low-fat dairy. It emphasizes whole (versus refined) grains and modest amounts of lean proteins, including poultry and fish, to minimize intake of unhealthy saturated fats. For a copy of the plan, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/how_plan.html
Scale back sodium intake.
High intakes of sodium can cause you to retain more water, which increases the volume of blood circulating through your body. This translates to higher blood pressure. Most Americans consume too much sodium. Keep intake to less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may advise eating even less: recent research suggests that consuming less than 1,500 mg daily is most effective for reducing blood pressure.
Healthy Low Sodium Recipes and Menus
Load up on produce.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, a mineral that helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. Particularly good sources of potassium include bananas, oranges, tomatoes, artichokes, lima beans, spinach, dried prunes and raisins. Low-fat dairy is a good source of the mineral too.
Go easy on alcoholic beverages.
Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure (though no one knows exactly why). If you drink, do so moderately-that means one drink a day for women, two drinks for men.
Red Curry with Vegetables
Red Thai curry paste, which flavors this dish, is a convenient blend of chile peppers, garlic, lemongrass and galanga (a root that's similar in flavor to ginger). It can pack a lot of heat, so be sure to taste as you go. Look for the curry paste in jars or cans in the Asian section of the supermarket or specialty store. Make it a Meal: Ladle the stew over rice to soak up every bit of the delicious sauce.
Makes 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
ACTIVE TIME: 40 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 14-ounce can "lite" coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1-2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, quartered
1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring every 2 or 3 minutes, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
2. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, broth and curry paste to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tofu, green beans and brown sugar; return to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender-crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 348 calories; 16 g fat (6 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 13 g protein; 7 g fiber; 451 mg sodium; 578 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (400% daily value), Vitamin C (45% dv), Calcium (25% dv), Iron (15% dv). 2 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 medium-fat meat, 2 fat.
Sauteed Spinach with Toasted Sesame Oil
A delicious and quick spinach saute is a nice addition to any meal.
Makes 2 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 10-ounce bag fresh spinach (see Ingredient note), tough stems removed
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and soy sauce. Serve immediately.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 102 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 195 mg sodium; 732 mg potassium.
1/2 Carbohydrate Serving. Exchanges: 1 1/2 vegetable, 1 1/2 fat.
Ingredient Note: The sturdier texture of mature spinach stands up better to sauteing than baby spinach and it's a more economical choice. We prefer to serve baby spinach raw.
Mixed Lettuce, Fennel & Orange Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
This colorful salad offers a symphony of flavors and textures. Savory black olives, sweet orange slices and crisp, licorice-flavored fennel balance the slightly bitter tastes of chicory, radicchio and Belgian endive.
Makes 8 servings, 1 3/4 cups each
ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
EASE OF PREPARATION: Moderate
Black olive vinaigrette
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 medium navel or Valencia oranges
10 cups mixed lettuces (3 small heads), such as chicory, radicchio and leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 heads Belgian endive, sliced
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced
1. To prepare vinaigrette: Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Stir in olives and parsley.
2. To prepare salad: Using a sharp knife, remove peel and white pith from oranges. Quarter the oranges; slice pieces crosswise.
3. Just before serving, combine lettuces, endive, fennel and the orange slices in a large bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat well.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 167 calories; 10 g fat (1 g sat, 7 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 7 g fiber; 274 mg sodium. Nutrition bonus: 100% dv Vitamin A, 58 mg Vitamin C (100% dv), 296 mcg Folate (74% dv), 30% dv Fiber.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette (Step 1) for up to 2 days. Washed, dried lettuce will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. Keep prepared oranges and fennel in separate containers in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.
From www.eatingwell.com with permission. © 2008 Eating Well Inc.
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