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Wish to reduce blood pressure? Cut back on sugar and eat whole fruits.
That’s according to researchers from the University of Delaware, who found that eating a sugar-rich diet is linked to high blood pressure. They arrived at this finding after examining the diets of more than 100 elderly people.
Higher sugar intake was found to be significantly associated with higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure in women – the pressure as the heartbeats and between beats, respectively – even after controlling for age, income, body mass index, physical activity levels, daily calorie intake, and medication use.
On the other hand, eating whole fruits is significantly associated with lower diastolic blood pressure in both men and women.
“We’re not saying you can’t eat sugar … The kind found naturally in whole fruit is fine,” said Sheau Ching Chai, an assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition and one of the study researchers.
The researchers say that consuming 2.3 teaspoons less of added sugar and eating around a cup more of whole fruit can significantly reduce blood pressure. Whole fruits bring several important nutrients to a healthy diet, according to Chai, including fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds.
The facts about high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Also called hypertension, it happens when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently above normal.
Over time, hypertension tears the delicate tissues inside your arteries. Bad cholesterol then forms plaques along with those tiny tears. As more tears and plaques develop, the insides of your arteries become smaller, raising your blood pressure even more and starting a vicious cycle that injures your heart.
Besides sugar, excess sodium can also raise blood pressure. When you consume too much salt, your body holds extra water to “wash” the salt from your body. This extra water increases your blood volume, which means that your heart has to pump harder because it would have to push more liquid. Over time, this increased pumping can drive up your blood pressure.
How to reduce blood pressure naturally
If you have high blood pressure, it’s time to do a major lifestyle reboot. Check out the following natural ways to lower blood pressure:
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood. Studies also show that doing moderate exercise like walking for 150 minutes every week helps lower blood pressure.
- Eat berries. Berries are chock-full of plant compounds called polyphenols that help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Drink less alcohol. Liquor is linked to around 16 percent of high blood pressure cases worldwide.
- Cut back on salt. Studies show that reducing salt intake drastically reduces blood pressure.
- Eat potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps rid your body of excess sodium. Foods rich in this mineral include sweet potatoes, leafy greens, bananas and nuts.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine may cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, especially in caffeine-sensitive individuals.
- Manage stress. If you ever had a sudden burst of anger, you probably notice your heart beating faster and your skin red all over. Avoid stress by meditating, listening to mellow music, and managing your work schedule.
- Eat dark chocolate or cocoa. These scrumptious foods are rich in plant compounds called flavonoids that help widen your blood vessels. Be sure to choose cocoa powder with no added sugar to avoid spikes in your blood sugar.
- Lose weight. Obese and overweight individuals can make a huge difference to their health by losing weight. Studies show that losing five percent of your body mass significantly lowers high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, brief increase in blood pressure. Chemicals in tobacco can also damage your heart and blood vessels.
- Eat calcium-rich foods. Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. Foods rich in this mineral include dark green veggies, tofu, and dairy.
- Eat magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium helps relax your blood vessels. Incorporate this mineral into your diet by eating veggies, dairy, legumes, and whole grains.
High blood pressure drives up your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events like stroke. Reduce high blood pressure by cutting back on sugar and salt, eating more healthy foods, and exercising regularly.