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Nearly half of all adults — 47 percent — have high blood pressure, defined as anything greater than 130/80 mmHg, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those numbers rise with age, to about 70 percent of adults age 65 and older. But one of the most straightforward ways to help get yours under control is to watch what you put on your plate, advises Luke Laffin, M.D., codirector of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic.
One way to achieve this is by adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is rich in fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts, seeds, whole grains and low-fat dairy. A 2020 review of 30 randomized controlled trials published in the journal Advances in Nutrition concluded that people who adopted the DASH diet saw significant reductions in their blood pressure, even if they didn’t already have hypertension, compared to control groups. Other, earlier research found that following the low-sodium DASH diet reduced blood pressure by about 11 points in those with hypertension. “It’s equivalent to taking one or two blood pressure medications,” points out Laffin.
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To get control of blood pressure, it’s best not to focus on one specific food in particular, but to focus on an overall healthy dietary pattern instead. “All these nutrients work synergistically together,” explains Maya Vadiveloo, assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island and vice chair of the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association. “Foods like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy are rich in micronutrients that work together to regulate blood pressure,” she says. They also replace more harmful foods that can elevate blood pressure, like salty snacks.
But there are some specific foods that are good to include in your diet, since they are rich in the nutrients that help lower blood pressure. Here are the top foods to eat — and those to avoid.
9 great foods for controlling high blood pressure
These are rich in potassium, a nutrient shown to help lower blood pressure, says Laffin. One medium banana provides about 375 milligrams of potassium, about 11 percent of the recommended daily intake for a man, and 16 percent for a woman. The only caveat is if you also have late-stage kidney disease, notes Laffin, since you’ll need to be careful with potassium consumption. In that case, check with your doctor before loading up on bananas.
These contain resveratrol, a substance that helps relax blood vessels, says Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of Atria New York City and host of the Beyond the Heart podcast. They’re also rich in anthocyanins, a group of plant pigments that promote heart health. A 2019 study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that people who drank a wild blueberry beverage daily for 28 days saw a 5 mmHg drop in blood pressure. An added bonus: Blueberries seem to be especially good for the brain, according to research from Rush University.