High blood pressure — also known as hypertension — occurs when pressure of blood against your artery walls is too high. Roughly 1.28 billion adults worldwide suffer from high blood pressure, reports the World Health Organization. Another 46% of adults have high blood pressure and do not know it.

There are several factors that determine blood pressure, many of which are linked to diet and lifestyle. Eating healthy foods can help prevent, manage and lower high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

There is no primary cause for high blood pressure, it is typically a result of several factors, reports the Cleveland Health Clinic. Some of the most common factors that can lead to high blood pressure include: unhealthy diet, eating high amounts of sodium, high consumption of alcohol and not getting enough physical exercise.

There are few symptoms of high blood pressure. Health care professionals often call it “the silent killer” because many people do not know when they have high blood pressure, per the CDC. For this reason, check your blood pressure at least once every year.

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How to lower high blood pressure

There are several lifestyle changes that can aid in lowering high blood pressure without taking medication. Regular exercise, weight loss, reduced stress and maintaining a healthy diet can assist in lowering high blood pressure, per Harvard Health.

“Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can lower high blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “Even a small reduction of sodium in the diet can improve heart health and reduce high blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg.”

Here are seven foods and dietary changes that may aid in lowering blood pressure.

1. DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, encourages a balanced diet loaded with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and low-fat dairy products, per the American Heart Association. DASH also suggests limiting sodium, fatty meats, alcohol, saturated fats and added sugars.

“The DASH diet can lower blood pressure because it has less salt and sugar than the typical American diet. The DASH diet cuts out desserts, sweetened beverages, fats, red meat, and processed meats,” reports WebMD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the DASH diet recommends the following daily servings:

  • Fruit: Four to five servings per day.
  • Vegetables: Four to five servings per day.
  • Grains: Six to eight servings per day.
  • Fat-free/low-fat dairy products: Two to three servings per day.
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish: Six 1-ounce servings or less per day.
  • Nuts, seeds or legumes: Four to five servings per week.
  • Fats and oils: Two to three servings per day.
  • Treats and added sugar: Five servings or fewer per week.

A 2014 study reports that individuals on the DASH diet experienced lower blood pressure even when they did not restrict sodium or lose weight.

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2. Berries

Berries are a superfood loaded with health benefits such as improving heart health, relieving anxiety and boosting brain function, as reported by the Deseret News. They may also help in reducing blood pressure. Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants such as anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins found in berries may aid in lowering blood pressure, according to a 2019 review. Some researchers claim more evidence is required to prove this theory.

Blueberries, in particular, may help lower blood pressure. A study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that individuals who drank a wild blueberry beverage every day for 28 days experienced a drop of 5 millimeters of mercury in blood pressure.

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3. Yogurt

Another food that may aid in lowering blood pressure is yogurt. It is important to note, not all yogurts are made equally — yogurts with lots of added sugars may not possess the same health benefits as a natural or plain yogurt.

“Dairy products are one of the best dietary sources of calcium in terms of bioavailability,” reports Medical News Today. “Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It is also important for blood clotting, wound healing, and maintaining normal blood pressure.”

A large review of 28 studies found that eating three serving of dairy every day is associated with a 13% lowered risk of high blood pressure. Increases in dairy consumption was linked to decreased risk of low blood pressure.

Also, a 2021 study from the International Dairy Journal reports that individuals who regularly eat a serving of yogurt had lower systolic blood pressure and lower arterial pressure than those who do not eat yogurt often.

4. Dark chocolate

Regularly eating dark chocolate boasts a slew of health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, improved brain function and positive effects on mental health, as reported by the Deseret News.

Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, which may aid in reducing blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. These flavonoids are also associated with reducing “bad” cholesterol, lowered risk of heart disease and a decreased risk of insulin resistance.

A 2016 review of 35 clinical trials, published in the Cochrane Library reports that individuals with high blood pressure who regularly ate dark chocolate experienced lowered blood pressure by about 4 points.

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6. Leafy greens

Leafy greens are rich in nitrate, which aid in managing blood pressure. Eating a daily serving of leafy green vegetables can lower blood pressure and decrease risk of heart disease, reports a 2021 study. Some popular leafy greens include kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and cabbage.

“Salt makes your body hang on to more fluid. Fill your plate with leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, or collards for a potassium boost. The mineral helps flush sodium out of your body through your pee and relaxes your blood vessel walls,” reports WebMD.

7. Fatty fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are packed with health benefits such as improved sleep and reduced risk of heart disease, as reported by the Deseret News. The American Heart Association recommends eating a serving of fish at least twice per week.

A 2022 research report from the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at 71 studies and health reports from nearly 5,000 people to look for a link between omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure. The researchers found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids daily — which are found in fatty fish — may help reduce blood pressure.

“If you eat fish instead of animal protein high in saturated fat, like red meat, processed meat or full-fat dairy, then it can favorably affect your blood pressure as well,” Maya Vadiveloo, assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island and vice chair of the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association, told the AARP.

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