Almost half of all American adults have elevated blood pressure or hypertension. That percentage jumps to 70 percent for adults over the age of 65. This is concerning, given that having high blood pressure puts you more at risk for, among other conditions, heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the United States. The good news is that hypertension is manageable through a healthy lifestyle, including diet and regular exercise. Implementing a diet that reduces the risk of or helps combat existing hypertension is possible even if you reside in a senior living community. The key is to have the right information. Below are some easy diet adjustments you can make to help treat hypertension. With a little bit of planning and execution, you can lower your blood pressure and improve your general health.
Why Blood Pressure Is Important
Systolic blood pressure is the measure of your heart ventricles when they contract. Diastolic pressure is the measure of when they relax. Both gauge the efficiency with which blood is traveling throughout your body. Normal blood pressure means that blood is effectively delivering oxygen and nutrients to various parts of your body, including vital organs like your brain. With hypertension, your body is failing to move these necessary ingredients to where they need to go. Over time, this can lead to serious health problems.
Best Diet for Hypertension
Along with regular exercise, diet is the most effective way to control high blood pressure. Here are some easy and practical ideas for improving your diet to combat it.
Get Plenty of Water
We probably do not need to tell you the basic health benefits of drinking plenty of water. Besides flushing out waste and helping regulate your body temperature, water can help maintain a healthy blood pressure level. When you are dehydrated your blood becomes thicker. This makes it more difficult to pass through blood vessels, increasing pressure. Getting enough water throughout the day will help you avoid this.
Alcohol can impact blood pressure in several ways. First, it dehydrates you, which can spur the effects listed above. Also, alcohol can lead to unwanted weight gain. Obesity can put you more at risk for hypertension or exacerbate existing high blood pressure problems.
Adding fiber to your diet can help lower blood pressure. You can get fiber from beans, nuts, and a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. These have the added benefit of delivering tons of nutrients as well. Whole grains are also a great source of fiber and one that you can find in almost any senior living kitchen. Specifically, oats and barley grains contain a special type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. It plays a beneficial role in insulin resistance and staving off hypertension. Starting your morning off with a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal or adding whole-grain bread to your lunch sandwiches is a great way to leverage these benefits. Quinoa is a fantastic source of fiber as well and can be added to salads or topped with meat and vegetables as a rice substitute.
Limit Salt Intake
Many people use “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Salt is about 40 percent sodium (the rest is chloride). Sodium is a mineral that helps muscles contract and promotes proper cell and nerve function in the body. Sodium also pulls water into the bloodstream. If you eat too much sodium, it will cause elevated volume in your blood vessels, which increases pressure.
In general, limiting your sodium intake can go a long way toward lowering your blood pressure. The easiest way to do that is to monitor how much salt you consume. This goes for added salt in prepared meals as well as limiting foods that have higher salt content. These include things like potato chips, popcorn, salted nuts, and canned foods (that use a lot of sodium as a preservative). The same goes for highly processed foods, which are laden with salt.
Limit Sugar Intake
While salt is the most renowned culprit of blood pressure spikes, many people do not realize that sugar is almost as bad. Besides being calorie-dense and leading to weight gain and obesity, sugar also inhibits the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. This is a gas that helps blood vessels expand. Without it, they do the opposite––constrict––which in turn leads to high blood pressure. Limiting the amount of sugar in your diet will help combat hypertension, in addition to affording other health benefits.
Avoid Trans Fats and Saturated Fats
If you have difficulty with hypertension, you should avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats. Trans fats are hydrogenated oils found in processed foods. There are myriad reasons why trans fats are terrible for your body, but increased LDL cholesterol is at the top of the list. Cholesterol accumulates in your blood vessels. This makes them stiff, which increases blood pressure. Saturated fats are found in many natural foods, such as dairy products, red meat, pork, and chicken. While they are not as bad for you as trans-fats, too much of them can have the same effects on bad cholesterol. Eat them sparingly.
Eat Potassium-Rich Vegetables
Potassium lessens the effects of sodium in the body. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium your body expels. This eases tension on your blood vessel walls, which can lower blood pressure. There is a long list of foods that contain a fair amount of potassium. Some common fruits include apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew melon, oranges, and prunes. Vegetables packed with potassium include avocados, greens, lima beans, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes.
Implement a Meal Plan in Your Senior Living Community
Now that you know how to construct a diet that can keep hypertension at bay, speak with the staff or chef at your senior living center. They can put together a menu that is satisfying and helps you meet your health goals. At Inspired Living, we are committed to creating healthy menus. We partner with nutritionists to ensure our residents get meals that are both delicious and deliver the nutrition they need every day. Reach out to us to learn more about this and other amenities at our senior living facility.