Medication is often necessary to keep blood pressure in a healthy zone, but conscious diet decisions can have tangible positive impacts on long-term blood pressure management. Registered Dietitian Megan Wong shares with us some nutritious eating tips that Legacy has always strived to maintain for our seniors.
— The Leo Wertman Residence
In today’s post, I want to share some tips on how you can support your heart health by making nutritious choices.
As you’re likely aware, the risk for high blood pressure increases with age. And high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases the risk for heart disease, which is the second most common cause of death for women and men in Canada and the leading cause of death for women and men in the United States.
The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to manage your blood pressure… so keep reading to discover some practical tips.
*Keep in mind that you can’t feel changes in blood pressure, so it’s important to monitor your blood pressure regularly.
Reduce Salt Intake
Salt, or more specifically the mineral in salt called sodium, is crucial for a healthy body. After all, it helps regulate the balance of fluids in our bodies and is needed for muscle and nerve function. The problem is… too much sodium can cause us to hold onto fluids (because water likes to follow sodium around)… which can increase blood pressure and force your heart to work harder.
The daily recommendation for sodium intake is to aim for no more than 2300 mg… but the truth is most Canadian adults are consuming closer to 3400 mg each day! And it’s estimated that if our average sodium intake is decreased by 1840mg a day, the prevalence of high pressure would decrease by a whopping 30%.
So… how do we do it?
1. Eat Out less (or make healthier choices when eating out)
If you’ve ever looked at the nutrition information for restaurant foods, you’ll notice that the majority of foods have a LOT of sodium – sometimes more than the full day’s recommended amount in a single dish! For example, Tim Horton’s Chili bowl has 1180mg of sodium! So try to eat more home cooked meals. If you do eat or order out, here are some tips you can try to reduce your sodium intake:
- Ask for less sauce or salad dressing
- Avoid or limit processed meats and cheeses
- See if the nutrition information for the restaurant available and avoid high sodium dishes
- Ask for less salt to be added
2. Limit Processed Foods
The majority of salt in our diets come from eating out and processed foods… not the salt we add while cooking. Do your best to choose fresh foods instead of processed, pre-packaged foods. And practice your label reading! As a general guide for label reading, a food with 5% or less sodium per serving is considered low in sodium, while 15% or more is considered high. Keep in mind that a serving may be more or less than what you’d actually eat! Some common high-sodium culprits include…
- Instant noodles
- Canned foods -> choose low salt or no salt added, or rinse certain foods before eating
- Deli meats
- Cheese -> lower sodium cheese include swiss, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and some Babybel and Boursin varieties
- Sauces -> popular sauces like ketchup, mustard, relish, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and black bean sauce can be very high in sodium! Try using small amounts.
3. Get Creative When Cooking
Instead of adding salt or high-sodium sauces and condiments… trying some of the below when flavouring foods:
- Garlic and ginger
- Fresh or dried herbs
- Spice powders (eg. garlic, onion, paprika, dry mustard)
- Citrus juices and zests (eg. lemon, lime, orange)
- Vinegars (eg. balsamic, apple cider, rice)
- Fresh hot peppers
Increase Potassium Intake
Potassium can help lower blood pressure by balancing the amount of sodium in our bodies. Keep in mind that if you have kidney disease, you may need to be on a potassium-restricted diet. Check in with your doctor or a dietitian if you’re unsure.
There are a LOT of potassium-rich foods. Here are some examples:
Fruits & Vegetables
- Bok choy
- Tomato (and tomato products)
- Sweet potato
- Swiss chard