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High Blood Pressure Diet: 3 Top Things Avoid

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Updated March 19, 2014

The topic of dietary recommendations for high blood pressure is an interesting one. On one hand, it is exceedingly complex and has been the continued focus of research for at least three decades. On the other hand, the vast majority of dietary recommendations for high blood pressure are very similar to healthy diet recommendations in general. But regardless of the latest research, there are certain things you should avoid if you have hypertension. So if you're following a high blood pressure diet to help manage your condition, be sure to watch out for these three potential spikers.

1. Alcohol

People with high blood pressure should not drink alcohol. While studies have demonstrated that low levels of alcohol intake can have protective effects on the heart — and can possibly reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure 1 — research has also clearly demonstrated that consuming alcohol in the setting of existing high blood pressure is unhealthy 2.

Alcohol directly raises blood pressure, and further acts to damage the walls of blood vessels, which can elevate the blood pressure further and make it more difficult to treat, while simultaneously increasing the risk of complications.

2. Salt

In some people, eating too much salt can make high blood pressure much worse. In others, the same amount of salt consumption may have no effect. The problem is that no doctor or scientist can tell which is the case for an individual patient until it is too late.

This, combined with the fact that too much salt is bad for the heart regardless of blood pressure status, means that reduced sodium is a strongly recommended part of a healthy diet. These recommendations are especially important in the setting of secondary high blood pressure due to kidney problems.

3. Fats

Saturated fats, especially trans-fats, are bad for both the heart and blood vessels. Because the circulatory system is already under a lot of stress in the setting of high blood pressure, extra strain can be devastating.

The balanced high blood pressure diet should include sparse amounts of saturated and trans-fats (red meat, fast food), and moderate amounts of other fats (olives, canola oil).

1Beilin, et al., 1996, Alcohol & Hypertension - Kill or Cure?, Journal of Human Hypertension, Suppl 2:S1-5
2Leuenberger, et al., 2006, High Blood Pressure and Alcohol Consumption, Rev Med Suisse, 2(78):2041-1, 2044-6.

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