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  • Writer's pictureTina Shiver

Heart Health Awareness: Highlight on Hypertension

We all know that taking care of our hearts is crucial to a long, happy life; however, we sometimes forget that hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Approximately 45% of the population has a blood pressure at or above 130/80 (130 systolic, 80 diastolic), meaning that they meet the current guidelines for a hypertension diagnosis. This comes with an increased risk of CVD, such as heart failure, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), kidney disease, and premature death.

What causes hypertension?

Diet, exercise, smoking, stress, and genetics are all factors that can contribute to hypertension. Although weight is not always the cause, obesity has been causally associated with the development of hypertension. This association becomes even stronger when fat distribution is centered around the abdomen, indicating an excess of visceral adipose tissue (i.e., fat lining the internal organs) as opposed to subcutaneous fat (the lining of fat below the skin).

Regardless of weight, clients with hypertension tend to have a common theme of diets heavy in sodium, sugar, and fat, often due to eating out at restaurants where these additives are hidden in seemingly healthy dishes.

The good news? If we can eat our way into hypertension, we can eat our way out of it, too.

Diets rich in phytonutrients, anti-inflammatories, and fiber are fantastic for your heart.

Phytonutrients that contribute to helping with lowering blood pressure include the following:

  • Quercetin from onions,

  • sulfur compounds from garlic,

  • beta-glucan from whole oats,

  • isoflavones from soybeans,

  • polyphenols from pomegranate juice, and

  • polyphenols from dark chocolate.


Want more detail? Here are some other foods you can incorporate into your diet to help lower blood pressure:

  • Ground flaxseeds are anti-inflammatory and are made up of omega 3 fats. Flax seeds need to be ground to aid in digestion and absorption of omega-3’s. Flax is also high in a fiber called lignin, which is considered a phytonutrient that assists with the prevention of CVD.

  • Olive Oil contains polyphenols and antioxidants that can improve the ability of the blood vessels to expand along with a reduction in inflammation.

  • Avocado is a fruit that’s packed with fiber– a full 9 grams! It also contains good fats (monounsaturated) and high levels of potassium (700 mg.).

  • Soy has isoflavones; studies have shown that these compounds contributed to improvements in blood vessel expansion, reduced thickness of the carotid artery, reduced blood pressure, and a decrease in arterial stiffness. *Note: make sure the soy is high quality, not overprocessed, and non-GMO (stay away from soy dogs, soy meat substitutes).

  • Fish such as sardines, tuna and bonito contain proteins that can actually be protective for the heart and help reduce blood pressure. Cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring are high in omega 3s and have been shown to reduce coronary death by 36%. (Try to limit your intake of tuna, due to a high mercury content.)

  • Greens have a very important nutrient called nitrates, which opens up blood vessels, therefore helping with blood pressure. Some great greens are spinach, cabbage, parsley, arugula, fennel, celery, endive, leek, and salad greens.

  • Blueberries contain anthocyanin, which helps keep blood vessels open and lowers the risk of heart attack. Fun fact: blueberries have the highest level of antioxidants among all fruits and veggies!

  • Green tea helps to reduce blood pressure and blood fats. I recommend 3 cups a day, which will supply 240-320 mg. of polyphenols.


Lastly, here are some simple steps you can take today to lower your risk of hypertension and heart disease:

  • Keep your sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg. a day (this is only 1 teaspoon)

  • Reduce your intake of processed foods

  • Try and say good-bye to fast food

  • Eliminate soft drinks

  • Replace coffee with green tea

  • Reduce your alcohol consumption

  • Load up on phytonutrients, fiber and anti-inflammatory foods!

It’s time to ❤️ your ❤️.

Tina Shiver RD, IFMCP


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