While at the doctor’s office, we’ve all had our biceps strapped up to a blood pressure meter (technically called a sphygmomanometer), which calculates the force of the blood pressing up against the blood vessel wall. When those two numbers — blood pressure is measured both when the heart beats and when it is at rest — are high, it means the heart requires more force to pump blood through the body.
Hearing the words “high blood pressure” in any context is unnerving. The link between high blood pressure (often referred to as hypertension) and heart attacks is stronger than ever, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. About 85 million Americans (one out of every three adults over the age of 20) have high blood pressure, and almost 20 percent of those adults don’t even realize it. Genetics play a major role in whether a person will develop hypertension, but so do lifestyle choices. Smoking, lack of exercise, and being overweight increases the risk of having high blood pressure, but thankfully, our personal habits can also reduce blood pressure levels.
A change in diet is one of the easiest ways to lower blood pressure. While anyone who is serious about minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease must reduce sodium intake and limit alcohol consumption, other dietary measures — such as eating low-fat dairy products, cashews, and olive oil — also play a role in correcting blood pressure levels.
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