Know Your Blood Pressure: Normal/Prehypertension/Hypertension/Emergency Care Needed

Know Your Blood Pressure: Normal/Prehypertension/Hypertension/Emergency Care Needed

 

The information below is designed to help you understand what your latest blood pressure readings may mean for your health — and to provide tips on what you can do to get or keep your blood pressure in a healthy zone.

What Is Hypertension?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common condition in older adults. The blood pressure is the physical force exerted by the blood as it pushes against the walls of the arteries. An elevated blood pressure means that the heart must work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can also damage the walls of the arteries. With time, hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

Illustration of hypertension.

the Systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure 

There are two parts or two separate numbers reffered to as blood pressure: systolic/diastolic

If the blood pressure is 140/80 (140 over 80). It means that the systolic pressure is 140 and the diastolic pressure is 80.

140/80 blood pressure can also be read as 140/80 mm Hg, or 140/80 millimeters of mercury. The 140 mm Hg Systolic refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, and the 80 mm Hg Diastolic is the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

When determining if 140/80 is a good blood pressure, according to  American Heart Association’s blood pressure chart below.


Normal Blood Pressure
Systolic: Less than 120
Diastolic: Less than 80


Prehypertension
Blood Pressure

Systolic: From 120 to 139
Diastolic: From 80 to 89


High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1

Systolic: From 140 to 159
Diastolic: From 90 to 99


High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2

Systolic: 160 or higher
Diastolic: 100 or higher


Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)

Systolic: Higher than 180
Diastolic: Higher than 110


For 140/80 to be good, both numbers must fit into the “normal” category above. Otherwise, it will fall into other categories of High Blood Pressure.

Systolic reading of 140 is in the High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1 range. Diastolic reading of 80 is in the Prehypertension range.

Therefore, 140/80 is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension may not produce any symptoms, even if you have had it for years. That’s why it is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer.” It’s estimated that 1 out of every 5 people with high blood pressure aren’t aware that they have this major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. If not properly treated, high blood pressure can damage the heart and circulation, lungs, brain, and kidneys without causing noticeable symptoms.

Photo of a hypertension chart.

What Causes Hypertension?

Blood pressure is given as a reading of two numbers, such as 110/70. The higher number (systolic) is the pressure when the heart beats. The diastolic, or lower number shows the pressure between the heartbeats, while the heart is refilling with blood. Normal blood pressure readings are lower than 120/80. The cause of most cases of hypertension is unknown. Occasionally, conditions of the kidney or adrenal gland are the cause of high blood pressure.

Photo of woman stretching after a workout indicating a normal blood pressure level.

Prehypertension: A Warning Sign

Prehypertension means that your blood pressure falls just above the normal level, corresponding to a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. About one-fourth of Americans have prehypertension, and these people have two times the risk of heart disease compared with those who have lower blood pressures. Lifestyle changes can help many people with prehypertension to lower their blood pressure.

Photo of referee blowing a whistle indicating a warning for prehypertension level.

The Hypertension Danger Zone

Readings between 140/90 and 159/99 usually indicate STAGE 1 HYPERTENSION, which means the force of the blood pressure in your arteries is higher than normal, putting you at increased risk of life-threatening problems such as heart attacks and stroke. Blood pressure in this range can also damage organs such as the heart and the kidneys, especially in people who already have chronic medical problems affecting these parts of the body.

If you’re already being treated for hypertension, and your blood pressure is in this range, you may need to have your medications adjusted.

If you’ve never been diagnosed with high blood pressure before, you may have developed hypertension. Hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure ≥140, and/or a diastolic blood pressure ≥90. For a new diagnosis of hypertension, elevated blood pressure should be confirmed on at least 3 separate days.

Photo of tea kettle steaming indicating hypertension danger zone level.

who gets high blood pressure? 

High blood pressure is more common in older people. At age 45, more men have hypertension than women. By age 65, this is reversed and more women are affected. People with diabetes have a greater risk of hypertension than those without diabetes, and having a close family member with high blood pressure also increases your risk of developing it. About 60% of all people with diabetes also have hypertension.

Hypertension and Race 

African-Americans are at greater risk of developing hypertension than people of other races. Some studies suggest that African-Americans may be more sensitive to salt than other races. For those who are genetically prone to salt sensitivity, a small amount like a half-teaspoon of salt can raise blood pressure by 5 mm Hg. Dietary factors and being overweight can also raise blood pressure.

Hypertension and Sodium  

Sodium, a chemical found in salt, raises blood pressure by promoting the retention of fluid by the body. This increases the workload on the heart. The American Heart Association recommends an upper daily limit for sodium consumption of 1,500 mg. Checking food labels and menus can help you calculate how much sodium you are consuming. Processed foods are particularly high in sodium and make up about 75% of our sodium intake. Among these, lunch meats and canned soups have some of the highest levels of dietary sodium.

Photo of measuring cups full of various salt amounts.

 

HYPERTENSION AND POOR DIET, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT INCLUDES TOO MUCH SALT  

To care for our bodies, we all need good nutrition from a variety of food sources. A diet that’s high in calories, fats and sugars and low in essential nutrients contributes directly to poor health as well as to obesity. In addition, there are some problems that can happen from eating too much salt. Some people are “salt sensitive,” meaning a high-salt (sodium) diet raises their high blood pressure. Salt keeps excess fluid in the body that can add to the burden on the heart. While too much salt can be dangerous, healthy food choices can actually lower blood pressure.   

 

Hypertension and Stress

Being in a stressful situation can temporarily increase your blood pressure, but science has not proven that stress causes high blood pressure.  Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life, health behaviors and socioeconomic status. Stress may have an indirect effect on blood pressure since it can influence other risk factors for heart disease. How you deal with stress may affect other, established risk factors for high blood pressure or heart disease. People who are under stress tend to engage more in unhealthy habits like poor nutrition, alcohol use, and smoking, all of which can play a role in the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Hypertension and Weight, OBESITY

Being overweight increases the risk of getting hypertension and increases the workload required of your heart. Diets designed to control blood pressure are often designed to reduce calories as well. Most of these diets require decreasing consumption of fatty food and sugars while increasing your intake of lean protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

A body mass index between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. A body mass index over 30 is considered obese. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. About one in three U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. Excess weight increases the strain on the heart, raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. Losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds can help lower your blood pressure and your heart disease risk. To successfully and healthfully lose weight—and keep it off—most people need to subtract about 500 calories per day from their diet to lose about 1 pound per week. Calculate your body mass index and learn how to manage your weight.

HYPERTENSION AND LACK OF EXERCISE   

Physical activity is good for your heart and circulatory system. An inactive lifestyle increases the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, blood vessel disease and stroke. Inactivity also makes it easier to become overweight or obese. Give yourself the gift of improved health and lower blood pressure with regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.   

 

HYPERTENSION AND SMOKING , SECOND HAND SMOKE 

Smoking temporarily raises blood pressure and increases your risk of damaged arteries. The use of tobacco can be devastating to your health, especially if you’re already at risk for high blood pressure. Secondhand smoke — exposure to other people’s smoke — increases the risk of heart disease for nonsmokers.

 

HYPERTENSION AND ALCOHOL

Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The American Heart Association guidelines recommend the consumption of no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one drink a day for women. One drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. Too much alcohol can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and other diseases, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure

 

Hypertension and Caffeine

Caffeine can bring on the jitters, but there is no evidence that it can cause long-term hypertension. However, especially for those not accustomed to caffeine, a caffeinated beverage might bring on a temporary rise in blood pressure.

 

 HYPERTENSION AND GENDER-RELATED RISK PATTERNS 

A higher percentage of men than women have HBP until 45 years of age. From ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64, the percentages of men and women with HBP are similar. After that, a much higher percentage of women have HBP than men.

 

HYPERTENSION AND FAMILY HISTORY

Height, hair and eye color runs in families — so can high blood pressure. If your parents or close blood relatives have had HBP, you are more likely to develop it, too. You might also pass that risk factor on to your children. That’s why it’s important for children as well as adults to have regular blood pressure checks. You can’t control heredity, but you can take steps to live a healthy life and lower your other risk factors. Lifestyle choices have allowed many people with a strong family history of HBP to avoid it themselves.

Hypertension and Pregnancy

Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops in pregnancy. If not properly managed, it may develop into preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is elevated blood pressure and the leakage of protein into the urine by the kidneys. Preeclampsia can be dangerous to both mother and baby. After the baby is born, high blood pressure of pregnancy usually returns to normal levels.

 

HYPERTENSION AND ADVANCED AGE 

As we age, we all develop higher risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Blood vessels lose flexibility with age which can contribute to increasing pressure throughout the system.

 

HYPERTENSION AND SLEEP APNEA

Some 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates. Sleep Apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which tissues in the throat collapse and block the airway. The brain forces the sleeper awake enough to cough or gulp air and open the trachea up again. But then, the whole cycle starts all over again. Pauses in breathing can contribute to severe fatigue during the day, increase your safety risks, and make it difficult to perform tasks that require alertness.  Sleep apnea is also a risk factor for such medical problems as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes and stroke.

 

HYPERTENSION AND MEDICINE 

Certain medications contain ingredients that can elevate blood pressure. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants are one example of drugs that raise blood pressure. Other kinds of medicines that can raise blood pressure are steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, NSAID pain relief medications, and some antidepressants. Talk to your doctor about the medications or supplements you may be taking that might affect your blood pressure.

‘White Coat’ Hypertension

Sometimes people have a higher blood pressure reading when they are in the doctor’s office. This may be due to anxiety or nervousness. For the most accurate readings, take your blood pressure at home at different times and share these measurements with your doctor. To determine if your readings are accurate, bring your home blood pressure monitor to the doctor’s office so that the device and your technique can be evaluated.

Hypertension and Children

Although it’s most common in older adults, hypertension can also affect children. The normal blood pressure for a child is dependent upon the child’s age, gender, and height. Your doctor can tell if your child’s blood pressure is abnormal. Children are at higher risk for hypertension if they are overweight, are African-American, or if they have a family history of the condition.

Risks among certain groups 

 

  • African-Americans – If you’re African American, there’s a good chance that you or a relative has HBP.
  • Women – Starting at age 65, women are more likely to have high blood pressure than men.
  • Children – While HBP is most common in adults, children can develop it, too.

 

Secondary hypertension: HBP caused by a pre-existing problem

  • In 5-10 percent of high blood pressure cases, the HBP is caused by a pre-existing problem. This type of HBP is called secondary hypertension because another problem was present first.

Factors that may lead to secondary hypertension include: 

Kidney abnormality, including a tumor on the adrenal gland, which is located on top of the kidneys

A structural abnormality of the aorta (the large blood vessel leaving the heart) that has existed since birth

Picture of the Human Aorta

Narrowing of certain arteries

  • The good news is that these pre-existing problems can usually be fixed. For example, doctors can repair a narrowed artery that supplies blood to a kidney. Once the root cause of secondary hypertension is corrected, blood pressure typically returns to normal. For those with HBP, a physical exam and some tests can help your doctor determine whether your high blood pressure is primary or secondary hypertension.High blood pressure is just one condition that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.        

LIVING WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Hypertension often lasts a lifetime, so following a careful management plan is essential. Keeping your blood pressure under control can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure and can improve your quality of life.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE READING IS 140/90

Discuss your blood pressure concerns with your doctor. If you’re already on medications, they probably should be adjusted. If you aren’t on medications, it may be reasonable to start with a trial of lifestyle changes, although many people ultimately need medication to get their blood pressure into the normal range.

Ask your doctor to check for other conditions that can worsen high blood pressure, such as sleep apnea.

Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you’re on any medications that can worsen high blood pressure (these can include NSAIDs, as well as some antidepressants).

Monitor your blood pressure regularly to make sure it responds to the treatment plan.

Consider getting a home blood pressure monitor that uses an arm cuff and check your BP every few days to make sure it responds to medication. (Wrist and finger monitoring systems don’t give accurate results.) Write down each reading, indicating the date and time, and bring this record to the doctor when you visit.

 

Make lifestyle changes:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Lose weight or maintain healthy weight.
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Lower salt intake to less than 2g per day (most Americans get 5 to 10 grams a day).
  • Limit caffeine.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Reduce stress.

COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES

It has been shown that meditation and other relaxation techniques can help lower blood pressure. Yoga, tai chi, and breathing exercises can also help reduce blood pressure. It’s best when these are combined with changes in diet and exercise. Tell your doctor if you are taking any herbal remedies, since some of these preparations can actually raise blood pressure or interact with your blood pressure medications.

 The DASH Diet

Dietary changes can help control blood pressure. One diet designed to promote lower blood pressure is known as the DASH diet. This stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet recommends eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, nuts, and fish. Red meat, saturated fats, and sweets should be avoided. It can also help to reduce your intake of sodium.

  Exercise

Exercise is another lifestyle factor that can lower blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults get about 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This can include activities like walking, bicycling, gardening, or other aerobic exercise. Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended at least twice a week.

   Diuretics

If diet and exercise are not sufficient to lower blood pressure, the first medications recommended are often diuretics or so-called “water pills.” These reduce sodium and fluid levels in the body to lower blood pressure. Taking diuretics means you will urinate more frequently. Sometimes, diuretics deplete potassium levels as well, which can lead to muscle weakness, leg cramps, and tiredness. Other side effects of diuretics can include elevated blood sugars in people with diabetes. Less commonly, erectile dysfunction can occur.

 

Medicines under doctor’s supervision:

Beta-blockers 

Beta-blockers are another drug used to treat hypertension. They work by slowing the heart rate and thereby decreasing the workload of the heart. They can be used to treat other conditions as well, including abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia). Side effects of beta-blockers can include dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, cold feet and hands, and erectile dysfunction. 

ACE Inhibitors

ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors are another class of antihypertensive drugs. They reduce the body’s levels of angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels. This means that arteries are more open (dilated) and the blood pressure is lower. Side effects of ACE inhibitors can include skin rash, dry cough, dizziness, and elevated potassium levels. Women taking ACE inhibitors should not become pregnant.

An illustration of clogged and unclogged arteries.

ARBs

Instead of lowering angiotensin II levels, a related class of drugs called ARBs or angiotensin receptor blockers prevents the actions of angiotensin II on the arteries. This means the arteries stay more open and blood pressure is lowered. ARBs can take a few weeks to work. Side effects can include dizziness, muscle cramps, insomnia, and elevated potassium levels. As with ACE inhibitors, women taking ARBs should not become pregnant.

A photo of a doctor with ARBs.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers are drugs that reduce the movement of calcium into cells of the heart and vessels. This reduces the strength of heart contractions and relaxes the arteries, allowing them to remain more open, lowering blood pressure. Side effects of calcium channel blockers can include heart palpitations, dizziness, swollen ankles, and constipation. They should be taken with food or milk. Because of potential interactions, those taking calcium channel blockers should avoid alcohol and grapefruit juice.

A photo of a man with pills.

Other Medications

There are even more medication types that can lower blood pressure. Some of these are alpha blockers, vasodilators, and central alpha agonists. Your doctor may prescribe these medications if other medications have been ineffective or if you have another condition along with hypertension. Side effects can include fast pulse, palpitations, diarrhea, or headaches.

A photo of a daily pill box.

The treatment of high blood pressure in this range has been debated for years among geriatricians and other experts in the care of older adults. In most cases, geriatricians prefer to not start or increase blood pressure medications unless an older person’s systolic pressure is often ≥150. (This is assuming that the older person doesn’t have heart failure or another chronic medical condition that will benefit from better blood pressure control.)

Here’s why: Although research studies have shown that adults ages 70s to 80s do benefit from treatment of high blood pressure, almost all the studies involved getting people’s blood pressures down from a starting average systolic of 170 to a systolic in the 140s.

In general, the higher the starting blood pressure, the more likely it is that someone will benefit from a reduction of 20mm or so. (This seems to be true in middle-aged adults as well.)

On the other hand, as people get older or more chronically ill, they become more likely to develop side effects from blood pressure medications, such as dizziness when they first stand up. For this reason, if there’s been any concern about falls or dizziness, make sure that blood pressure has been checked for “postural” or “orthostatic” changes. Some older people feel better once their blood pressure medications have been reduced a bit.

NOTE: This information isn’t a substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor. Your blood pressure reading may have been recorded wrong and your information above may not apply to you. If you think you might have hypertension or pre-hypertension, be sure to discuss your blood pressure concerns with a doctor or nurse, who can help you factor in other important information, such as other medical problems you may have. In particular, the information above may not always apply to those who are young people, very old, very frail,  people with special conditions or have multiple chronic medical conditions. This page is simply informational. 

Sources:

heart.org

foenix.com

medicinenet.com

caring.com

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8 Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

DASH, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” is the eating plan recommended by the NIH. It features foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, with a particular focus on fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The eight foods on this list are DASH-approved. Not only are they packed with nutrients that support overall health, but they also help lower blood pressure. Here’s how:

1. Celery 

Mark Houston, a physician and medical director of the Hypertension Institute of Nashville at Saint Thomas Hospital, recommends celery to patients as a natural remedy for lowering blood pressure. This recommendation isn’t anything new: Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been prescribing celery or celery root to patients with high blood pressure for more than a century.

How it works: Celery contains phytochemicals known as phthalides, which relax the muscle tissue in the artery walls, enabling increased blood flow and, in turn, lowering blood pressure.

How much: According to Houston, eating four stalks of celery per day may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. For a boost of protein, add a tablespoon of unsalted peanut butter or almond butter; both are high in monounsaturated fat (the heart-healthy kind).

2. Cold-water fish  

Cold-water fish are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which are famous for their cardiovascular benefits. In particular, omega-3s lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Wild (not farmed) salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, trout, halibut, herring, and sardines are among the best sources.

How it works: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids: The human body can’t make them, so we need to get them from the food we eat. Omega-3s  seem to positively influence several cardiac risk factors, such as blood triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), heart rate, and atherosclerosis (plaque in artery walls).

How much: According to the joint guidelines from the FDA and the EPA, two six-ounce servings per week of most cold-water fish is a safe amount for most people, including pregnant women and nursing mothers, to reap the health benefits with minimal risk from exposure to toxins. If you bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor about potential complications.

3. Broccoli  

Nutritionally speaking, broccoli is a red-carpet regular, connecting the worlds of scientific research and natural health. This cruciferous veggie is hailed as a super-food because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And when it comes lowering blood pressure, broccoli sells itself.

How it works: Broccoli is a potent package of fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, all nutrients that may help lower blood pressure. One cup of steamed broccoli provides nearly 200 percent of the vitamin C you need each day. Researchers aren’t sure how, exactly, vitamin C helps. Theories range from the vitamin promoting the excretion of lead to calming the sympathetic nervous system to protecting nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow. But the results are the same: Antioxidant vitamin C helps bring down blood pressure.

How much: For the myriad health benefits you can reap from regular consumption of broccoli, most people would do well to eat at least one serving a day. For variety, eat it raw with salsa or hummus, or steamed with olive oil and lemon. If you have a juicer, run the stalks and leaves through for a spicy green sipper.

4. Dandelion   

 

For more than a century, dandelion has been used as a cure-all for countless conditions and ailments in cultures around the world, particularly in its native Asia and Europe. The entire plant is edible, from leaves to roots. And in addition to lowering blood pressure, it’s good for the liver, eyes, and skin.

How it works: A natural diuretic, dandelion helps reduce blood pressure by releasing excess sodium without the loss of potassium (as occurs with some over-the-counter diuretics). This is doubly important because excess sodium raises blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, while potassium helps regulate it. Dandelion is also loaded with magnesium, a mineral that is critical to proper function of the heart and muscles.

How much: Eat fresh dandelion greens in a salad, sauté dandelion roots in a stir-fry, or drink dried dandelion in a tea. Incorporate dandelion into your diet as often as you can; it’s really good for you, and in any form you find it (except on your lawn), chances are that it’s organic — grown without harmful pesticides or herbicides.

5. Whole-grain oats  

In a 12-week study comparing whole-grain oat-based cereals to refined wheat-based cereals, researchers reported that 73 percent of hypertensive participants in the oats group were able to cut out their antihypertensive medications, or reduce them by half. The remaining participants also experienced substantially reduced blood pressure.

How they work: The fiber and magnesium found in oats both have beneficial effects on blood pressure. In addition, oats help slow atherosclerosis, the plaque buildup that occurs in blood vessels.

How much: Aim for one serving (about three-fourths of a cup) of whole-grain oats per day, or at least six servings per week. For a boost of blood-pressure-lowering calcium and potassium, eat whole-grain oatmeal topped with skim milk (or unsweetened soy milk) and banana, or sprinkle oat bran on cereal and salads. Loose oats also make an excellent thickener for soups and stews.

6. Black beans 

Legumes boast a high fiber-to-protein ratio that you won’t find in any other type of food. This combination helps maintain lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, both of which help keep artery walls healthy, which promotes lower blood pressure.

How they work: Black beans are a nutrient-dense source of fiber and magnesium, which are essential for healthy blood pressure levels. What puts them at a distinct advantage over other foods, though, is the folate you’ll find in these legumes. Folate, also known as folic acid in its synthetic form, is a B-complex vitamin that appears to lower blood pressure (especially systolic blood pressure) by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow.

How much: 400 micrograms of folate is the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Aim for that as a minimum; 800 micrograms daily has shown significant benefit in reducing blood pressure in multiple large-scale studies. One cup of cooked black beans provides 256 micrograms of folate. Many cereals are also fortified with folic acid.

7. Berries 

Calorie for calorie, berries are among the most nutritional foods on the planet when it comes to fiber and antioxidant capacity. All berries are great for you, but blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are tops for their ability to help lower blood pressure, thanks to high doses of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other plant compounds.

How they work: All three berries are high in fiber, but raspberries rank highest: Just one cup delivers more than 33 percent of the daily value, for a mere 60 calories. A cup of strawberries offers 136 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. And blueberries contain a compound called pterostilbene that helps prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Last but hardly least, berries are anti-inflammatory.

How much: Eat at least one serving (one cup) of berries per day, fresh or frozen.

8. Low-fat dairy  

In a Dutch study of hypertension in adults 55 and older, researchers found that low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may help prevent hypertension.

How it works: The modest amount of fat in low-fat dairy is important because it increases the bioavailability of calcium, making it easier for the body to absorb. In addition, milk and dairy products offer blood-pressure-lowering magnesium and potassium.

How much: In a 2006 study from Harvard Medical School, researchers found that people who ate more than three servings per day of low-fat dairy showed a systolic blood pressure reading of 2.6 points less than those who ate less than half a serving per day. So aim to include skim milk, cheese, and yogurt into your three daily meals, or in between.

 

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