Consuming too much salt can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to eat meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
This is, of course, good dietary advice for everyone, regardless of their blood pressure.
Salt and High Blood Pressure
Too much salt or sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, this is why your doctor will recommend limiting how much salt you eat to no more than about 1 teaspoon per day.
Another rule to follow, according to the American Heart Association, is consuming 1,500 milligrams a day of salt if you have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, or if you are African-American or 51 years of age or older.
Healthy people can aim for 2,300 milligrams a day or less.
To stay on track, choose low-sodium and no-added-salt foods and seasonings, and read nutrition facts labels carefully to determine the amount of sodium added to packaged and processed foods.
Get Plenty of Potassium
Since potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells, not getting enough can lead to too much sodium in your blood.
Hence, getting plenty of potassium can help prevent and control high blood pressure.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you don’t have hypertension, so everyone should monitor alcoholic intake.
Healthy women of all ages and men older than 65 should limit themselves to one drink a day, while men 65 and younger can stick to up to two drinks a day.
Keep in mind that one drink is a 4 oz. glass of wine, 12 oz. beer, or a small amount of hard liquor (1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits).
Supplements and High Blood Pressure
There’s no solid evidence that any supplement can help lower your blood pressure, but a few healthcare providers believe that supplements might have some benefit.
More research is needed to determine what role, if any, supplements might play in lowering blood pressure.
Talk with your doctor before taking any of the following since some supplements can interact with medications and cause deadly side effects.
Fiber, such as blond psyllium and wheat bran
Minerals, such as calcium and potassium
Supplements that increase nitric oxide or widen blood vessels, such as cocoa, coenzyme Q10, or garlic
Omega-3 fatty acids
Probiotics (though their potential effect on blood pressure is not known)
Once diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which focuses on heart-healthy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber.
Foods may include the following:
Low-fat dairy products
DASH limits the following:
Red meats (including lean red meats)
While your doctor will help tailor the DASH diet to your needs, the following is an example of the recommended servings from each food group for someone on the diet who is consuming 2,000 calories a day.
6 to 8 servings a day of grains
4 to 5 servings a day of vegetables
4 to 5 servings a day of fruits
2 to 3 servings a day of dairy
6 or fewer servings a day of lean meat, poultry, and fish
4 to 5 servings a week of nuts, seeds, and legumes
2 to 3 servings a day of fats and oils
5 or fewer sweets a week
What about a Mediterranean Diet?
Common characteristics of a Mediterranean diet include the following:
High consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds
Olive oil as a common monounsaturated fat source
Dairy products, fish, and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts
Little red meat is eaten
Eggs are consumed zero to four times a week
Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts
While you may have heard of the health benefits surrounding a Mediterranean diet, the American Heart Association states that before it would recommend the diet, further studies are needed to determine whether the diet alone is the reason for lower death rates from heart disease in Mediterranean countries, or if other lifestyle factors such as more physical activity and extended social support systems contribute.