Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure Without a Pill

Keeping blood pressure within a normal range is very important because it reduces the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Sodium and potassium balance is the key to keep a healthy blood pressure. There is a lot of confusion about these two minerals, however. Sodium intake in the United States regularly exceeds the recommended daily amount of less than 2300 milligrams. Studies have shown that the higher the person’s salt intake, the higher the individual’s blood pressure. Along with this problem of sodium overconsumption is the under-consumption of its antagonist: potassium. Higher potassium intake helps to lower blood pressure by blunting the effects of sodium. Diets rich in potassium are also associated with a reduced risk of developing kidney stones as well as reduction of bone lose with age.

Here I want to talk about some practical ways to reduce your sodium, increase your potassium, and enjoy a healthy cardiovascular system. Visit this page to know how much of these minerals you need to eat daily and why, if you’re healthy. If you have any health problem, consult your doctor.

Facts About Sodium Intake in the American Diet

77% of the sodium we consume comes from food processing. So, the more processed a food is (the higher the ingredient list or the more hands touched it), the higher the sodium content and the lower the potassium content.

12% of the sodium is naturally occurring. This means sodium naturally found in the food, not added by the manufacturer. Some food items are naturally higher in sodium than others. Milk is a great example.

6% of the sodium is added at the table.

5% is added during cooking.

Studies have shown that an individual's preference for salt is not genetically fixed. If you reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, your mouth gets used to the taste after a while and your cravings disappear. You can use other flavoring in place of salt. I personally love spicy foods. Your food can be spicy and not salty. You can use chili, red pepper and others.

Other studies have shown that the amount of salt that people add to their food at the dinner table is generally stable. I’ve seen individuals who add salt to their food even before tasting it. This is just a well-established habit, not a real necessity.

Practical Steps

According to the facts about our American diet, the most important thing is to focus on food selection: more fresh, less processed. Because most sodium comes from manufacturing practices, it is important to read and compare food labels of different brands. For example, the sodium content of one brand of soup that you like might be over 1000 milligrams sodium, compared to 700 milligrams in another brand that you like as well. Always choose the lower sodium content. Do this even if you don’t have high blood pressure now.

Avoid overly processed foods, prepared meals and mixes. Remember that the more hands touched it, the higher the sodium content. You can also think about this as the more instant the food is, the higher the sodium content. Think about instant cakes and other things that are quick and easy to make. If you make a cake the old-fashioned way with milk and flavoring, it is going to have only the natural sodium that is found in the milk. If you make an instant cake, you can watch on the label how the sodium content rises.

Another invaluable way of reducing your blood pressure is to increase your potassium intake. To increase your potassium you should want to include more leafy green vegetables, root vegetables and fruits in your diet. All of these are rich in potassium and they favorably affect metabolic processes that can reduce your risk of kidney stones and bone loss.

Balance your plate with at least 50% fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are where potassium resides. Certainly you can limit condiments such as barbecue sauce. These condiments are a hidden source of sodium.

If aren’t eating any fruits or vegetables at all, start with a fruit a day. You can increase gradually from there. Keep adding more and more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, they’re always good (unless you get an orange glow in your skin from eating too many carrots!).

If you keep improving your diet like that, you’ll reach a point where you no longer crave salty foods. You will understand that you didn’t really need it, it was just a habit. When you have established the new positive habit, it would be as well-established as the old one: you’ll be addicted to your new healthy diet!

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