High blood pressure diet: Foods to eat and avoid – Insider

High blood pressure, or hypertension , is extremely common, affecting 47% of American adults. That’s a problem since people with high blood pressure are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other health conditions.
Controlling hypertension isn’t super complicated, however. One way to do it is through a healthy diet. 
“We have identified several factors in the diet that are associated with lowering blood pressure for most people, making nutrition an important part of treating high blood pressure,” says Samantha Cochrane, LDN, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Here’s a list of foods to eat and avoid for high blood pressure, as well as a detailed eating plan for the DASH diet — considered to be a great diet to manage blood pressure.
A main focus of high blood pressure diets is avoiding foods with a lot of salt and saturated fats, says Janeen C. Miller, MS, wellness coordinator with Providence St. Joseph Hospital. These include processed and packaged foods:
Salt or sodium intake is directly linked to high blood pressure, while saturated fats raise cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease and can compound the risks of high blood pressure. 
All adults should limit their sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day and people with high blood pressure should aim for no more than 1,500 mg
Heart-healthy foods are those that are low in sodium and saturated fats, and rich in fiber and essential nutrients, including potassium, which is linked to lower blood pressure.
If you’re following a high blood pressure diet, most of your food should be:
Heart-healthy snacks include: 
Cochrane suggests experimenting with new foods and good combinations to find those that are most enjoyable for you. 
One of the most popular diets for high blood pressure is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet
Research has found that people following the DASH diet can lower their blood pressure within two weeks and ultimately lower their systolic blood pressure by 8-14 points, reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease. 
Medical term: Systolic blood pressure is the “top” number in your reading that measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The DASH diet plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while minimizing fatty, sweetened, and processed foods. 
On the DASH diet, “there are not necessarily good or bad foods, but foods you want to include more of, more often,” says Cochrane. 
A typical day on the DASH diet includes:
In addition, people on the DASH diet can have 4-5 servings of nuts each week, and a maximum of five servings of sweets each week.
Drastically changing your diet can be challenging, so Cochrane recommends starting slowly. 
“If the plan is overwhelming, don’t try to do it all at once,” she says. Below are a few tips to start:
Rather than thinking of the diet as a restriction, Cochrane says to think of it as a way to give your body the best fuel possible. You don’t need to be perfect, and you can still indulge in the occasional sweet or salty treat.
“A good goal to strive for is to eat heart-healthy about 80% of the time,” Miller says.
High blood pressure contributes to more than half a million deaths in the US each year. 
Following a diet that is low in sodium and saturated fats, and rich in whole, unprocessed foods, like the DASH diet, can help you lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of premature death. 
Moreover, following a diet like the DASH diet is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, which also includes managing your stress, exercising regularly, and not smoking.
“Consuming healthy, low-sodium, low-saturated-fat foods will improve blood pressure and, of course, overall health,” says Miller.