Like other lifestyle diseases including obesity and heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) is almost wholly preventable and largely treatable with purposeful improvements in diet and exercise. Since the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association reduced the threshold for what is considered “high blood pressure”, even more seniors have now been categorized as “hypertensive” in the hopes that early action can help bolster their health outcomes.
Check out these quick healthy eating tips for tackling high blood pressure:
Reduce Sodium Consumption
Due to the nature of a Western diet, many people in the U.S. end up consuming 2 to 3 times as much sodium in a day as they should. Seniors especially are prey to high sodium culprits like frozen dinners, canned food, processed meats, and cereals. Research has shown, however, that a low sodium diet can help fight hypertension by reducing the amount of fluids you retain and thus taking stress off the kidneys and vascular system.
It’s easier to avoid over-consumption of sodium when you prepare your own meals, however, that is not always possible for seniors who have limited mobility or can’t always get to the grocery store for fresh food. That is where home chefs for seniors can play an important role - providing much-needed whole food and low-sodium diets, and decreasing the amount of processed food a senior eats.
Eat More Whole Grains
Many plant-based and clean-eating diets tout “whole grains” as a must-have portion of any meal, and for good reason! The rich fiber content in whole grains does wonders for helping fill you up and reduce cholesterol levels. Less bad cholesterol in your bloodstream means more room for blood flow to move unimpeded, thus a lower blood pressure.
The “whole” in whole grain simply means unrefined, so any grain that still retains its germ and bran works in a heart-healthy diet. Whole grains include everything from brown rice to whole oats, wheat, buckwheat, rye, spelt, bulgur, barley, and farro. It’s important to remember that “multigrain” doesn’t necessarily mean “whole grain.” That manufacturers of a product can sprinkle whole grains in a food and label it “multigrain” or “made with whole grains.” Make sure to check labels for “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain” when making purchasing decisions.
Up Your Potassium Intake
Want to reinforce the integrity of your all-important blood vessels and arteries? You may have known potassium was important for muscle health (i.e. the old mantra “eat a banana when you get a leg cramp”), but as an electrolyte, it also shares the responsibility for maintaining the water balance in your cells, offsetting the negative effects of sodium, and relaxing blood vessels so they can circulate blood with less pressure.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that all adults over 19 should consume around 4.7g of potassium a day. The truth is that most don’t. There are so many wonderful dietary sources of potassium, however, so formulating weekly meal plans that include potassium-rich ingredients isn’t hard. They include:
Chicken, red meat, and fish (like salmon and cod)
Bananas, citrus fruits, dried figs, dried apricots, prunes, and cantaloupe
Acorn squash, sweet potatoes, nuts, and legumes (like lentils and black beans)
Kale, avocado, spinach, beets
Low-fat dairy is also a staple of a diet tailored to lower high blood pressure, and these products generally offer generous amounts of potassium too - think skim milk and plain low-fat Greek yogurt.
In addition to making necessary upgrades to their diets, people with hypertension are encouraged to adhere to recommended exercise guidelines as well as track blood pressure readings at home. The best blood pressure monitor for home use is typically an easy-to-use digital device that displays and records quick, accurate readings and alerts users to anomalies like an abnormally high or low blood pressure. Self-monitoring also provides people with a way to set goals and track the effects of their diet and lifestyle changes so they can report back to their doctor.