February is Heart Month and all month long you’ll be hearing lots of information about how to keep your heart healthy.
It’s a good time to remind you to have your blood pressure checked. This simple step when you go in for your annual check-up or at a visit to the drug store can be a life saver. Hypertension (high blood pressure) can go undetected for a long time, putting you at risk for heart disease or stroke. And, while it’s often thought of as a condition that happens as you get older, it’s being seen in younger people so screening for everyone at all ages is critical.
If you have hypertension(or are at risk) there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make that can play a role in preventing or controlling your blood pressure. Losing weight, giving up cigarettes, managing stress, reducing your sodium and limiting alcohol can all help. Check out the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which has been shown to help people successfully manage their blood pressure.
Here are some other simple tips:
Load up on fruits and vegetables: I know it’s always on my “to-do” list, but when it comes to hypertension, there’s strong reason to do it. Many of these foods are rich in potassium which has been linked to better blood pressure control. Five simple strategies for potassium rich foods:
- Slice a banana and/or an orange on your breakfast cereal or in your breakfast smoothie
- Enjoy a fruit salad of cut up melons
- Bake a potato at dinner
- Slice an avocado in your green salad
- Make a fresh tomato sauce for pasta and throw in some extra vegetables for even more potassium
Include some magnesium-rich foods: The DASH research showed that a diet with foods rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium and fibre can help control blood pressure. To increase magnesium:
- Make a black bean chilli
- Snack on a handful of almonds or cashews
- Enjoy a mixed bean salad
- Cook a side dish of spinach or Swiss chard at dinner
- Try grilling skewers of firm tofu with vegetables for a vegetarian dinner
Try some low fat dairy: Research suggests that the calcium in low fat dairy products can also help with blood pressure management.
- Drink a glass of skim milk or pour it on your breakfast cereal
- Make a dessert of fresh fruit and low fat yogurt
- Try a smoothie of low fat yogurt and fruit
- Use low fat yogurt as a base for a creamy salad dressing
- Make a recipe of buttermilk pancakes
Eat a fibre rich diet, including both soluble and insoluble fibre:
- Have oatmeal for breakfast or as a snack
- Add wheat bran or ground flax to dry cereal
- Add a handful of seeds, nuts and/or dried fruit to salads
- Make a lentil or barley soup and serve with a slice of whole wheat bread
- Snack on a pear or a dish of fresh berries