About 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure, and the majority are over 65 years old. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is dangerous since it can harden the arteries and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
While the likelihood of having high blood pressure rises with age, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. A healthy diet can be a powerful weapon against hypertension -- not to mention a host of other serious health conditions -- along with regular exercise and other smart lifestyle moves.
Most leading health organizations recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet as a way of lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
The diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products and limiting foods that are high in saturated fat and sodium, has been shown to help people lower their blood pressure in as little as two weeks, says
Darshi Shah, a certified nutritional therapist and author of "RIGHT Diet for Autoimmunity."
If you’re like a lot of older adults looking to keep your blood pressure in check, the following DASH diet-friendly staples should be on your grocery list.
Popeye may’ve gotten more than bulging muscles from his regular doses of spinach – many nutritionists agree that the leafy green is an excellent pick for lowering blood pressure.
Registered Dietitian Julie Upton says that the foods most linked to reducing blood pressure are high in potassium. Cooked spinach is loaded with the nutrient, with 813 mg of potassium per cup, she notes.
To keep spinach and other veggies DASH diet-friendly, try steaming and boiling them as opposed to sauteeing and adding spices for flavor rather than salt, suggests Shah.
2.Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are nutritional powerhouses that not only keep you full, but can also help lower blood pressure. Besides satiating fiber, beans and lentils are also high in potassium and magnesium, a combination that has repeatedly been shown to reduce or prevent hypertension.
Since the DASH diet includes only limited amounts of meat and poultry, beans and lentils provide an excellent plant-based source of protein to replace those foods. Shah recommends adding an extra portion of beans or lentils to meals to satisfy your daily protein requirements healthily.
Blueberries are among the healthiest whole foods available – packed with fiber, potassium, Vitamin C and disease-fighting antioxidants. Additionally, they’re one of the best fruits to reach for if you’re trying to lower or maintain your blood pressure.
While other berries can also help lower blood pressure, a host of research highlights the effect of blueberries in fighting hypertension. A 2015 Florida State University study, for example, showed that women with mild to moderate hypertension who ate blueberries daily had significantly lower blood pressure after 8 weeks compared to those who did not eat blueberries.
Fruits and vegetables are central to the DASH diet, but one produce aisle standout is celery. A 2013 study is among the research pointing to celery’s hypertension-fighting potential – it showed that patients with mild to moderate hypertension were able to lower their blood pressure by taking celery extract. And Mark Houston, medical director of the Hypertension Institute of Nashville at Saint Thomas Hospital, recommends eating more of the veggie as a natural way to reduce blood pressure
Shah suggests snacking on celery with nut butter between meals to curb hunger.
5. Cold-water fish
Cold-water fish are another category of foods that are packed with beneficial nutrients that can help anyone be a little healthier. For those looking to lower their blood pressure, the Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish are the best options.
The Omega-3s found in cold-water fish “inhibit plaque inside the arteries, reduce blood clots and may increase good cholesterol and lower blood pressure,” a statement from the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) reads.
DASH diet recommendations include eating more fish than poultry or red meat, and the American Heart Association advises eating fish twice per week.
6. Lowfat Yogurt
Low-fat dairy products are a key part of the DASH diet, with two to three servings recommended daily. Low-fat yogurt in particular has been shown to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure.
Research presented at the American Heart Association’s annual 2012 meeting showed that women who regularly ate yogurt over two to three decades were 30 percent less likely to have hypertension than those who didn’t eat yogurt.
In case you needed more reasons to stock up on this dairy product, yogurt has also been shown to help strengthen teeth and bones, and it’s high in protein, so it can help you stay full.
Raisins are another type of DASH diet-friendly food that are packed with potassium, a key nutrient in fighting hypertension.
And according to research presented at the 2012 American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session, snacking on raisins may help lower blood pressure. In the study, participants with mild blood pressure increases who ate servings of the fruit a few times per day were able to significantly reduce their blood pressure compared to those who snacked on other foods.
Long nicknamed “nature’s candy,” raisins are a healthful yet effective snack to satisfy your sweet tooth, as opposed to cookies, candy and other sugary options that are typically high in calories and devoid of nutrients.