7 Foods That Affect Blood Pressure

Many foods can affect blood pressure -- some (like the weak stimulants found in coffee and tea) for a short period of time, others (like salt) over a longer period. Knowing which foods to eat more of -- and which to avoid -- can make a difference for your heart health. Each of the nutrients and foods listed below has been shown to influence blood pressure.

1
Salt

French fries sprinkled with salt
Adam Gault/OJO Images/Getty Images

Though there is disagreement about the precise role that salt plays in high blood pressure, there is no question that blood pressure and salt intake are related. Strong evidence suggests that some people may be abnormally sensitive to salt, and that salt consumption may place them at higher risk for heart disease. While the details have yet to be worked out, being vigilant about your salt intake may help to lower your risk of high blood pressure or make existing high blood pressure easier to control.

Related:

More »

2
Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee, cocoa and some sodas. It excites the central nervous system and increases heart rate, metabolic rate and blood pressure. These effects, though, are only temporary, and the long-term effects of caffeine consumption may surprise you. Many studies have shown that habitual coffee drinking is not linked to hypertension and in many cases, regularly consuming coffee may in fact lessen your risk of high blood pressure.

More »

3
Alcohol

Studies have shown that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol seem to protect against high blood pressure, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases. The theory is that alcohol affects the walls of blood vessels, altering their elasticity and changing how they respond to certain “stress” messages carried by hormones. The combination of these two effects leads to a lower average blood pressure and less work for your heart. In excessive amounts, though, alcohol has exactly the opposite effects – it increases blood vessel stiffness, raises the overall level of metabolic “stress,” and places higher demands on the heart.

More »

4
Folic Acid

Folate -- a B vitamin found in some vegetables, citrus fruit and beans -- and folic acid (found in most cereal and bread in the US) may help lower blood pressure (and prevent the onset of high blood pressure) in doses of about 800 micrograms per day-- twice the recommended daily allowance. The catch? The positive effects of folic acid have only been demonstrated in women. A 2015 study found that folic acid supplementation increased vasodilation (the opening of blood vessels that allows blood to flow more freely) in older adults, but not younger adults.

More »

5
Potassium

Potassium is an important electrolyte found in potatoes, yogurt, fish, avocados and winter squash. Many Americans don't get the recommended amount in their diets (4,700 mg/day for adults). Not consuming enough potassium leads to increased blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke. Potassium likely works by changing the way that blood vessels respond to certain chemical messages in the body, helping to keep them supple and relaxed. Eating a variety of whole foods -- including fruits and vegetables, fish and dairy products -- is important for preventing and managing high blood pressure.

More »

6
Magnesium

Magnesium is a nutrient found in many foods, such as whole grains, yogurt and green leafy vegetables, as well as in supplements, plays a role in regulating blood pressure.

While magnesium supplements seem to have just a small (though significant) effect on blood pressure, diets high in magnesium seem to lower blood pressure. A diet high in magnesium (such as the DASH diet), also tends to be high in other blood pressure-lowering nutrients, such as potassium and calcium. 

More »

7
Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that regulates many metabolic functions in the body. We mostly stock our supplies of D through sunlight, although it's also found in some foods, such as fatty fish and milk.

It helps control the level of calcium in the blood and contributes to the regulation of blood pressure. The data is unclear about what – if any – protection can be gained from vitamin D, but there is strong evidence showing that a deficiency of vitamin D can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. If you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, chances are you might not be getting enough D, and may need to supplement.

More About Diet & High Blood Pressure

More »

Continue Reading