5 Foods That Bring Down Blood Pressure

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Having high blood pressure damages veins and arteries and puts extra wear and tear on your heart. If you have hypertension, your doctor probably already told you to cut sodium out of your diet to help get your blood pressure in check. What he might not have told you is that eating certain foods can actually bring it back down. Enjoying these foods can lower your chances of having chronically high blood pressure over time, but you have to enjoy in moderation, of course.

5 Skim Milk Foods

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If you’re a milk drinker, make sure you switch to skim milk. According to a 2005 study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” regularly enjoying skim milk, or foods made with skim milk, like yogurt and cottage cheese, can dramatically lower your risk of having high blood pressure. Including skim milk and related foods in your daily diet lowers your risk of hypertension by roughly 50 percent. You don’t have to feel guilty about filling up your glass one more time or having an extra serving of nonfat yogurt before heading out the door. Whole milk, on the other hand, has no benefit on your blood pressure levels.

4 Potatoes

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Potatoes are jam packed with potassium, a mineral that works side-by-side with sodium. Potassium tends to balance out sodium levels in your body, thus keeping your blood pressure in line. Getting at least 4,100 milligrams each day can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by nearly 3 points and your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by more than 1 point, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. Just one plain 6-ounce baked potato has almost one-fifth of your daily potassium recommendation of 4,700 milligrams. Just don’t grab that salt shaker to season it or you’ll get a lot of sodium.

3 Oats

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Oats are rich in soluble fiber. This type of fiber binds with fluid in your gut, slows down digestion and helps carry out excess cholesterol. Since the extra cholesterol molecules escape, they’re less likely to build up in your arteries and make them stiff. In 2002, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that eating oatmeal daily for 12 weeks lowers your overall cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and even cuts down your blood pressure. By the end of the study, published in “The Journal of Family Practice,” nearly three-quarters of the research participants were able to either stop taking their antihypertensive medications altogether or at least cut the dosage down under their physician’s supervision.

2 Blueberries

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Blueberries are loaded with anthocyanins, which are a powerful food compound that give the berries their deep blue color. Anthocyanins help reduce inflammation and can strengthen arterial walls, bringing down your blood pressure and reducing your risk of chronic hypertension. A 2011 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” looked into blueberries and their benefits for hypertension. Researchers discovered that eating just one serving of blueberries a week—about three-quarters of a cup—can lower your chances of having problems with high blood pressure by up to 10 percent.

1 Dark Chocolate

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Dark chocolate—more than 50 percent cacao—is rich in flavonols. This food chemical increases your body’s production of nitric oxide, which opens up your blood vessels. Blood passes through with ease, thus lowering your overall blood pressure in as little as 18 weeks. Your systolic, the number on top, can decrease by as much as 5 millimeters of mercury, while your diastolic number on the bottom may go down by 3 millimeters of mercury, according to a research analysis published in the 2010 edition of “BMC Medicine.” Don’t go overboard and start having an entire chocolate bar for dinner every night. Keep your serving to a minimal 1-ounce square. The higher the percentage of cacao, the more likely you are to reap the benefits of dark chocolate.

Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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