When the doctor takes the blood pressure he gets two readings, a high one and a low one, which he reads aloud as one-twenty over eighty and writes down as 120/80. The first number is the systolic or contraction reading and the second is the diastolic or expanding one. The contractions and expansions are those of the heart. Contracting to push blood into the arterial system and expanding to let blood flow into the heart from the veins. When the heart contracts and pushes blood into the arteries the blood pressure goes up to the systolic reading. When it relaxes and expands, the blood pressure drops to the diastolic reading.

Generally, a blood pressure below 140/90 in the adult is considered normal. Blood pressure from 140/90 to 160/110 is generally considered mild to moderate elevations, while any blood pressure above 160/110 is generally considered to be severe by American standards. For most Americans with high blood pressure, an improper diet has been a major factor and a change in diet is frequently the remedy. The chief dietary substances affecting blood pressure are salt, fat, and calcium. Eating in a way out to deal with high blood pressure is increasingly the number-one therapeutic choice.

Excess sodium in the system raises blood pressure, and nearly all the sodium in our diet comes from salt. Extra salt will add to a high blood pressure problem and increase the complications that go with it. Hypertensive people who cut down on salt intake will respond by lowering their blood pressure, especially if they are one of the one-third to one-half of those who are particularly sensitive to blood pressure boosts from sodium.

Salt is not the only substance known to fluence blood pressure. Excessive dietary fat will do so as well. Fat causes the blood elements to stick together, so the heart has to work harder to push all that sludge around. When fat consumption is reduced, the blood pressure also falls. Lowering fat intake seems more powerful in lowering the blood pressure than reducing salt intake. Eating certain varieties of fatty fish is also effective in reducing blood pressure as the fish oils seem to act as beta-blockers. Other components of seafood such as potassium and selenium, may also contribute to lowering blood pressure. Eat fish at least three times a week, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables seem to lower high blood pressure. One blood-pressure lowering drug may be fiber, especially from fruit. Fiber in fruits had the strongest anti-hypertensive effect more so than fiber in vegetables or cereals. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables increase amounts of a hormone that dilates blood vessels and lowers pressure. Celery has been used as a folk remedy to lower blood pressure. The pressure-lowering chemical is called 3-n-butylphthalide and gives celery its aroma. Celery lowers pressure by reducing blood concentrations of stress hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. Celery may be most effective in those whose blood pressure is linked to mental stress, which could be up to half of all Americans. Although celery in high sodium compared with other vegetables, one medium stalk still contains a mere 35 mg of sodium. Thus, a two-stalk blood-pressure lowering dose would add only 70 daily mg of sodium, an insignificant amount in a total diet.

Another legendary folk remedy for high blood pressure is garlic. Garlic cloves pushes diastolic blood pressure down in patients with mild high blood pressure. Garlic probably lowers blood pressure at least partly by relaxing the smooth muscles of the blood vessels, allowing them to dilate. That happens in animals fed garlic juice. Also, both garlic and onions contain a great deal of a compound that is a smooth-muscle relaxant. Both raw and cooked garlic and onions can benefit blood pressure, although raw garlic is thought to be more potent.

Another secret weapon against high blood pressure may be high-calcium foods. In fact, adequate calcium can cancel the blood-pressure raising effects of sodium in some people. Alcohol tends to counteract calciums powers to lower blood pressure. Low amounts of dietary calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin E were associated with higher blood pressure. Low calcium intake was the most consistent factor in hypertensive individuals. Individuals who had the higher calcium intake had the lowest blood pressure. Milk and dairy foods, are rich in calcium and help reduce blood pressure. However, since milk can cause digestive problems and allergies in many people, many other foods are high in calcium such as green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, collard greens, turnip greens) as well as canned sardines and salmon with bones.

Diet Prescription for High Blood Pressure: