Christmas dinner
High blood pressure / hypertension

New Hypertension Guidelines: 8 Tips to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

At 481 pages, the new blood pressure guidelines are being discussed a lot, but being read infrequently. Many news reports are simply rehashing the old Puritanical admonition, “Avoid everything pleasurable.” Since that’s not what the research recommends, it’s important to know what’s both real and new in the guidelines—for your health and happiness.

Overall, a major focus of the report is lifestyle modification rather than medications for those whose status will change under the updated guidelines.” Here’s what people need to know:

  1. SALT: Although it plays a role, and decreasing salt intake is recommended, the benefits of salt restriction are modest. It only drops blood pressure an average of 3 mm. So don’t overdo the heavily salted, processed foods, but feel free to use a normal amount of salt from the salt shaker.
  2. POTASSIUM: More important than salt restriction is to Increase potassium intake, which is associated with a 5–10 mm drop in blood pressure. Include a generous amount of avocado in the salad. Serve coconut water or tomato/V-8 juice. Mix bananas in the dessert. All these foods are rich in potassium. Perhaps the new expression should be “a banana a day keeps the doctor away!”
  3. OIL: Jettison the margarine! Instead, go “Mediterranean” and favor the olive oil.
  4. CAFFEINE: Coffee and tea anyone? Absolutely! Having a cup or two a day does not increase blood pressure long-term.
  5. EGGS: The research shows that having a few each day does not increase the risk of heart disease, or raise cholesterol. So enjoy your morning E&B (with or without the B).
  6. WINE: A glass of wine with dinner? Yes please. In moderation (no more than two drinks a day on average). Alcohol actually prolongs life relative to being a teetotaler. Drinking while your blood pressure is high can be problematic though, so wait till your blood pressure is under 130/80.
  7. DESSERT: Cut back the sugar because it increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Instead, enjoy some cocktails with whole fresh fruit (toss the canned ones with the syrup). Then drizzle some of the best-tasting chocolate you can find on it. In moderation, chocolate is a health food, and eating a small amount each day is associated with a whopping 57 percent lower risk of dying of heart attack.
  8. EXERCISE: Along with weight loss, this is a key part of controlling blood pressure. Meanwhile, early data suggests that sunshine—which raises vitamin D—can also help lower blood pressure. So go for a walk in the sunshine before your Thanksgiving meal – and make a 30 to 60 minute walk part of your daily routine.

BOTTOM LINE: “The new research shows that having low blood pressure is something we can live with, while still enjoying our lives. But it’s worth remembering what Mark Twain advised: ‘Moderation in all things – including moderation!’”

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, is a board certified internist and nationally known expert in the fields of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, sleep and pain. He is also Director of the the Practitioners Alliance Network (PAN) and author of numerous books including The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution (Avery), the best-selling From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin), Pain Free 1-2-3 — A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now (McGraw-Hill), Three Steps to Happiness! Healing Through Joy (Deva Press), the Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! series (Fairwinds Press), Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale), and the popular free iPhone and Android application “Cures A-Z.” He is the lead author of four studies on effective treatment for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and a study on effective treatment of autism using NAET. Dr. Teitelbaum does frequent media appearances including Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News Channel, the Dr. Oz Show and Oprah & Friends. He lives in Kona, Hawaii.