A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Fight stroke by lowering blood pressure

Illustration - Foods that can help reduce your risk of stroke

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and staying away from high-sodium foods can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.

High blood pressure is bad for your health in many ways, and one particularly serious consequence is an increased risk of stroke.

In addition to stroke, high blood pressure can cause kidney damage, vision loss, memory loss, damage to the heart and more, according to the American Heart Association.

Keep blood pressure in a healthy range

Kristene Schulte, a registered dietitian with Marshfield Clinic, said an ideal blood pressure is 120/80, but her goal for adults is to stay under 140/90. Diet, weight and age all influence blood pressure.

Schulte said there are several things people should do to maintain healthy blood pressure:

  • Find healthy ways to reduce stress: Anger and stress can increase blood pressure, so finding ways to relax is important.
  • Exercise: Physical activity strengthens your heart and makes it easier to pump blood through your system, which lowers blood pressure. Exercise also helps manage stress and weight, two elements that impact blood pressure.
  • Eat a low sodium diet: Reduce the salt in your diet, limit processed foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Canned soups, frozen dinners, and foods that come as boxed mixes tend to be high in sodium as does fast food. Limit alcohol, caffeine and drink plenty of water to help control blood pressure.

Put your plan into action

Schulte said people need to find motivation to stay on track with a healthy diet, like weight loss or a desire for more energy. Schulte helps patients eliminate barriers to eating a healthier diet, like concerns over cost.

A bag of apples is very comparable in price to a bag of Doritos,” Schulte said. “So we just need to help people problem-solve and see that a good diet is achievable.”

Schulte said setting small, realistic goals helps change eating habits.

“A lot of it involves planning ahead and making the decision to want to eat healthier,” Schulte said.

High blood pressure often occurs in concert with other health issues like obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

“The good news is that all these can be improved with healthier eating and exercise,” Schulte said.

  1. Dec 20, 2016

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