Millions of Americans take medication to combat hypertension — a silent killer that raises risk for stroke and heart attack. But some foods naturally lower blood pressure as effectively as popping pills.
Here is what you need to know:
"Hypertension is a major cardiovascular risk factor, not only for heart attack but especially for stroke," says Miami-based cardiologist Dr. Michael Ozner, author of the bestselling book, "The Complete Mediterranean Diet: Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease... with 500 Delicious Recipes."
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If you are at risk of approaching the hypertension stage — blood pressure in excess of 140/90 — there is a lot you can do to stop it before popping pills.
"First, try lifestyle intervention," Ozner says. "Get some exercise, learn relaxation techniques, and eat right. The Mediterranean diet has proven to lower blood pressure."
The Mediterranean diet limits sugars, refined carbohydrates, andsaturated fat while going heavy on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats. Add the following foods (and one drink) that have been shown to naturally lower blood pressure:
Tart cherry juice. Researchers found hypertension sufferers who drank just two ounces of this a day averaged a 7% drop in blood pressure.
Walnuts. Replacing snack food with walnuts helped knock three points off the resting blood pressure of participants in a study at Penn State University.
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Beet juice. Beets are rich in nitrate, which your body turns into nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and is a natural blood thinner. A Hypertension study reported the systolic pressure of subjects who drank a cup of beet juice a day fell eight points.
Flaxseed. In one study, systolic blood pressure dropped 10 points in people who ate ground flaxseed every day. Diastolic pressure went down by seven points.
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Yogurt. Eating good-quality yogurt offers you two proven hypertension busters: calcium and probiotics.
Dark chocolate. A popular choice, but the key is in eating just one square a day. And it should be a type of chocolate that contains more than 50% cocoa. Do that, and you can lower your blood pressure.
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