Diet key to blood pressure

February 6, 2009 By Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

If you're like many Americans, your blood pressure has crept up as you've gotten older. But it doesn't have to. Our lifestyle has an impact on blood pressure; in fact, in parts of the world where people still live as their ancestors did, high blood pressure is rare. Things that contribute to a healthy blood pressure include a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

It's not clear how fruits and veggies exert their effect, though it likely has something to do with vitamin and mineral content. A new study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute sheds light on this, suggesting that higher vitamin C levels are linked to healthy blood pressure. In the Growth and Health Study, 242 girls ages 8-11 were followed for 10 years, and their blood pressure and vitamin C blood levels were measured regularly.

Researchers found that the girls with the highest blood levels of vitamin C had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures. It wasn't clear if the vitamin was helping to lower blood pressure or there was a marker for some other healthy nutrient. More research is needed.

In the meantime, multiple things will help keep your blood pressure normal as you age, and also protect your heart. Here are some lifestyle tips:

• Eat lots of fruits and veggies every day, especially those high in potassium and vitamin C, such as citrus; dark green, leafy veggies; and melons.

• Keep up that fiber intake. Aim for at least 50 grams per day. Some studies suggest that fiber such as psyllium and wheat bran can help lower blood pressure. It's estimated that prehistoric folks got about 100 grams of fiber per day in their diet; the average American now gets about 10.

• Eat calcium-rich food every day. Calcium also seems to help regulate blood pressure. Or take a calcium supplement twice daily with food.

• Take a vitamin D supplement daily. Population studies suggest that people with low vitamin D blood levels are at higher risk of developing hypertension as well as obesity and diabetes.

• Fish oil may help to reduce blood pressure, so try to eat high-fat fish at least twice per week or take a fish oil supplement daily.

• Consider taking garlic, coenzyme Q-10 and dark chocolate. These all help to relax blood vessels and may help to lower blood pressure as well.

• Watch that sodium! If you have high blood pressure, keep your dietary sodium intake under 1,500 mg/day; otherwise, try to stay under 2,000 mg/day.

• Exercise every day and maintain your weight, two of the most powerful things you can do for your blood pressure.

If you are already taking blood pressure medications and you decide to try some of the above, be sure to talk to your doctor _ you may need an adjustment in your meds. By leading a healthy lifestyle, you're bound to need less medication, which is good news for the health of your body and your wallet!


(Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter's Downtown Integrative Medicine program.)


(c) 2009, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
Visit The Sacramento Bee online at
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Wearable electronic health patches may now be cheaper and easier to make

Related Stories

The sun

September 28, 2015

The sun is the center of the Solar System and the source of all life and energy here on Earth. It accounts for more than 99.86% of the mass of the Solar System and it's gravity dominates all the planets and objects that orbit ...

Fact over fiction on the 'apocalyptic' super blood moon

September 25, 2015

For many people, the sight of the moon turning deep red – some would say blood red – during a lunar eclipse is a wonderful sight. And that's precisely what many millions of sky gazers will be able to see this Sunday or ...

Living in space—and on Earth—is a balancing act

September 17, 2015

According to doctors, sometimes the best treatment for what ails you is rest. A new joint investigation by NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) may challenge that notion.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.