Proper nutrition can help women reduce risk of hypertension, heart attack risk

Eating a healthful, balanced diet is one way to help prevent cardiovascular disease – the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. This National Nutrition Month, we remember that we are what we eat.

It’s widely known that certain foods and weight gain are associated with an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is when the force of blood pushing against arteries is above normal. Hypertension can lead to cardiovascular disease and  heart attack.

Foods linked to high blood pressure tend to be high in sodium (salt), fat and caloric content. Examples include deli meats, pickled items, salad dressings, canned soups and fast foods. Whole milk products, butter and fried foods have also been tied to high blood pressure.

The impacts on the thickness of your blood from eating food with high caloric and fat content may be more obvious than salty foods. When consuming something high in sodium, your body reacts by holding extra water to help flush out the salt. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “The added water puts stress on your heart and blood vessels.”

The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests reading food labels and the approved Nutrition Facts to differentiate items that have higher levels of saturated fat, are hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated and have been processed or fried from those foods that are high in soluble fiber, are made with whole grains, sprouted nuts, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, known as the DASH diet, is a nutritional guide from a National Institutes of Health study in 1997. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Center for Research Resources and the Office on Research of Minority Health.

The study’s results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 1997, showed following a mostly vegetarian diet that is high in plant-sourced dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium and adequate protein kept participants’ cholesterol and blood pressure levels down. To download the PDF instructions on the DASH diet, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf.

For more information on nutrition for preventing hypertension, check out the following resources:

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Through sharing new and existing information on everything related to women's health, this site is dedicated to empowering women to take their health and well-being into their own hands. Life experiences continue to influence the development of Women and Our Health content. Currently, the site includes coverage of the latest federal health regulations, nutrition research and scientific discoveries in physical and mental health. Articles also review existing research on women's health issues, providing a library of information for readers.
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