Editor’s note: As our main aim is to provide unbiased and well-researched information, we must add that there’s current inconclusive, but still, academic and peer reviewed research involving the intake of sodium and its relationship with hypertension (or lack thereof). While the results are still arguable or yet to be widely accepted, it’s a subject worthy of consideration. It empowers you to make a better decision on whether to consume salt or not. Here is a link. We also recommend consulting your GP.

As of 2015, an astounding 29% of (or 70 million) American adults had high blood pressure. That’s about 1 in every 3 people. It’s a discounted condition that (if left untreated) can put a person at risk of heart attacks and/or stroke. To put that into perspective, over 730 000 Americans suffer from heart attacks every year, an overwhelming number of whom have had a history of hypertension (as high blood pressure is medically known).

While cases of hypertension are so rampant, it’s indeed one of the most treatable conditions. Apart from medication, there are habits you can avoid or cut down on such as not eating or drinking these foods that have been said to make your blood pressure worse.

As we’ve mentioned before, the jury is still out on sodium intake. However, it is not the only controversial nutrient here, so we recommend taking the information we provide on some food with a pinch of salt. And no, chilli doesn’t increase your blood pressure, it reduces it.

Caffeine may not be as good as you want it to be

We know that you love your morning cup of Jo but, if you have a history with hypertension, you should think of drinking something less spirited. Not much is known about the causality between caffeine and hypertension. However, there’s a suggestion that caffeine blocks a certain hormone that helps keep your arteries open. People who have a history of drinking caffeinated beverages regularly have higher blood pressure than those who don’t. This is not to say that caffeine causes high blood pressure, but that it can exacerbate it.

Your Americano isn’t the only beverage that contains caffeine, also consider lowering your intake of (or completely giving up):

  • Energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster
  • Certain tea brews
  • Chocolate bars
  • Ice-cream

Binge drinking alcohol is a no, no

Drinking more than three alcoholic beverages in one sitting can temporarily raise your blood pressure. There’s nothing wrong with that, as it naturally lowers thereafter. However, the relationship with alcohol and hypertension becomes very complicated when you start binge drinking. So cutting back is highly recommended for the sake of blood pressure and your wellbeing as a whole.

While you might want to suddenly give up drinking to reduce your hypertension, you should do so gradually. Research shows that heavy drinkers who stop drinking suddenly can suffer from hypertension for several days. On the other hand, those who cut back to moderate drinking lower their systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 millimetres of mercury. Their diastolic blood pressure reduces by 1 to 2 millimetres of mercury.

  • If you’re younger than 65, the recommended daily alcohol consumption is two drinks
  • Men aged 65 and older should consume one drink per day
  • Women should drink one drink a day regardless of age

Anything saturated with fats, maybe?

From fried foods and whole milk products to butter and margarine, there’s a list of fatty foods you might want to put down to reduce your blood pressure. Fatty foods are known to increase your cholesterol, which in turn blocks the arteries that allow for blood to freely flow throughout the body. The more these arteries are blocked, the higher the chances of blood pressure increasing. This is why obese people are also likely to have high blood pressure.

Your obvious conclusion is that this is a no brainer, because of the fact that these foods contain saturated fats, but this also requires a large amount of consideration. Just like sodium’s questionable relationship with hypertension, new studies are coming to the fore disputing claims that saturated fats are in their totality as bad for the heart as we’ve been told. But again, the jury is still out on whether it’s good or bad.

Sodium

While we have mentioned there’s a probability sodium doesn’t cause hypertension, it still deserves a mention. This is because, like it or not, there’s still a correlation between the two (i.e. people who have a history of high sodium intake are largely seen to have hypertension as well). Rather than making your decision about it (using any one of the two schools of thought – for or against sodium intake – to guide you), you may want to just lower your intake rather than increase it or stop taking it completely.

Blood pressure and food has become a rather complicated issue in recent months. At the moment, there’s plenty of PSAs lambasting nutrients that have been historically labelled as being bad for our hearts. This information, however, can also be as harmful as has been seen with arguments against sodium and saturated fats. In all honesty, the key to lowering hypertension is to do everything in moderation. This should also be coupled with staying active regularly, and trying to lower stress levels, which is something we will help you with in a follow up article.

Have we hit a nerve that’s sent your blood pressure spiralling out of control, or do you want to know more about questionable relationships between your food and blood pressure? Let us know in the comments section so we can start a conversation.