When your blood pressure rises, your heart is working harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. This may lead to heart failure or a heart attack, especially in people with heart disease. Furthermore, the extra force exerted by blood may cause blood vessels to burst, resulting in bleeding. Blood vessels in the brain are especially likely to rupture, which can lead to a stroke.
The final results of the NIH study will arrive in the coming months, but "it has changed in my practice. Like if I have someone in the low 140s, I no longer say that's sort of close. ... I try to push them down into the mid-130s if they are nondiabetic," Bisognano said. (Although this strategy might also help people with diabetes, Bisognano added, the NIH study only looked at people over 50 who did not have diabetes.)
1. Concentrate on foods that lower blood pressure. Sugary, processed foods contain salt, sugar, damaged fats, and food sensitivities like gluten that contribute to or exacerbate high blood pressure. Shifting to a whole, unprocessed foods diet can dramatically impact your blood pressure. Many whole, unprocessed foods are rich in potassium, a mineral that supports healthy blood pressure. Some research shows that too much sodium and low amounts of potassium – can contribute to high blood pressure. Research shows people with high blood pressure can benefit from increased potassium in foods including avocado, spinach, wild-caught salmon, and sweet potatoes.
"This is notable because there (are) a lot of people out there with blood pressure in the 130s that we might previously have left alone, but if the results of this trial (are) as we think they are, it might be reason to try to get them to 120," said Dr. John D. Bisognano, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and president-elect of the American Society of Hypertension.
Reduce sodium in your diet. One easy way to reduce your sodium intake is to limit or avoid processed foods, such lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, frozen dinners, canned vegetables with added salt, and that sort of thing. Most packaged convenience foods, like macaroni and cheese, soups, side dishes, pizzas, and other multi-ingredient foods have a lot of added sodium. Start reading labels and pay attention to the sodium content. You should aim for 1500mg or less every day.