We’ve all had our biceps strapped up to a blood pressure meter (technically called a sphygmomanometer) at the doctor’s office. These machines calculate the force of your blood pressing up against your blood vessel walls. When the two numbers it records — blood pressure is measured both when the heart beats and when it is at rest — are high, it means your heart needs to use more force to pump blood through your body. High blood pressure is dangerous because it puts more wear and tear on your heart.
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 undeniable, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, and 1 million adults are expected to have a heart attack or die due to heart disease in 2018.
Genetics play a major role in whether a person will develop hypertension, but so do lifestyle choices. Smoking, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits can all increase the risk of high blood pressure. But thankfully, your habits can also reduce blood pressure levels, so long as you practice the right ones.
Paying attention to your diet is one way to combat high 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. Here are 14 eating habits to lower your blood pressure.
Holly Van Hare and Michael Serrur contributed to this story.