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Playbook to control high blood pressure
Understand intake to maintain healthy level
Published Friday, August 24, 2012 4:12 pm
by Helen Woodward

When I walked into the emergency room of the hospital, I did not expect to learn that my blood pressure was 177/105. Determined to gain control of my condition, I took actions that would improve my health and longevity.

Helen Woodward

Managing high blood pressure is similar to playing a sport. You can’t win the game if you don’t know the benchmarks to hit. To control high blood pressure, follow my nine plays.

1. Know your blood pressure. Take your blood pressure reading two or three times a week and record it in a journal. Include the date and time that your reading was taken. Recording your readings will help you become knowledgeable about the rate at which blood surges through your blood vessels. Share your journal with your physician to provide a broader view of how your blood pressure functions in your everyday life.

2. Know how much sodium to have each day and how to apply your allowance. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults with high blood pressure consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. If you eat three meals a day, strive to consume no more than 500 milligrams of sodium per meal. Make your late morning and afternoon snacks consist of fresh fruit or vegetables.

3. Learn how to identify foods that are low in sodium. It is imperative that High Blood Pressure patients learn to identify the foods that are low in sodium, particularly since 80% of the sodium that adult Americans consume comes from processed and packaged foods. To cut back on sodium, you must know the nutrition benchmarks to target.

When grocery shopping, read the nutrition facts label, which is found on food products made for human consumption that have been changed from their original state (e.g. pasta sauce, rice mixes, hot dogs, breakfast cereal, potato chips, sandwich bread, barbeque sauce and ketchup). Use a two-step process to identify foods that are low in sodium.

Step 1: On the nutrition facts label, find the nutrient, Sodium. Read the number of milligrams and the percent daily value of sodium (% DV). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that foods low in sodium will have a %DV that is 5% or less, so look for those foods.

Step 2: Find the serving size on the nutrition facts label. The serving size corresponds to the %DV. Be sure to eat no more than the serving size that is specified on the label. Eating more than the serving size will increase the amount of sodium and calories that you consume.

4. Measure, measure, measure. Use your measuring spoons and cups at each meal to follow the serving size specified on the nutrition facts label of the product that you use. If the serving size of the salad dressing is 2 tablespoons, measure no more than that amount and pour it on your salad. Adhering to the serving size helps you reduce your intake of sodium and may also help you lose weight because you will be consuming smaller quantities of food.

5. Eat foods high in potassium. Eat more foods rich in potassium such as bananas, spinach, white and sweet potatoes, rutabagas, oranges, collard greens, broccoli and beets. When preparing pasta or couscous, consider adding ribbons of fresh spinach to improve nutrition and enhance flavor.

6. Prepare meals at home regularly. Cooking at home offers you the opportunity to enjoy a meal that is well balanced, low in sodium, economical, and delicious. With a home cooked meal you can avoid high sodium restaurant foods such as Red Lobster's New York Strip and Rock lobster tail dinner, which has 1,700 milligrams of sodium. That single entrée contains more sodium than the 1,500 milligram guideline, which is recommended for an entire day.

When you cook at home, you determine the ingredients as well as the amount that you will use in the preparation of your meal. Rather than add salt to your recipes, try kitchen staples such as ground red pepper, fresh and powdered garlic, fresh and powered onion, lemon pepper seasoning that does not contain sodium, Texas Pete Hot Sauce and parmesan cheese (use both according to serving size).

7. Avoid restaurants that do not provide nutrition facts online or onsite. Restaurants like Carrabba’s Italian Grill do not provide the nutrition content of their menu items on their company website or on their premises. How can you reduce your intake of sodium to get to better health if you don’t know the amount of sodium and other nutrients in the food? 

8. Plan ahead if you dine at a restaurant. Before heading to the restaurant, go to the restaurant’s website and read/print the nutrition facts information. Look for foods that are low or lower in sodium. Don’t assume that restaurant salads are low sodium; Ruby Tuesday's Carolina Chicken Salad has 1,057 milligrams of sodium.

a. Eat a piece of fruit before arriving at the restaurant to reduce your hunger.

b. If available, order a half or lunch portion of an entrée.

c. Tell your server that you have High Blood Pressure and do not want any salt or seasoning containing sodium added to your meal.
d. Ask how the food is prepared: grilled, steamed, etc.; avoid fried foods.

e. Order steamed vegetables without sauce.

f. Order vegetable or garden salads with dressing on the side. Use no more than 2 tablespoons of salad dressing.

g. Resist the temptation of ordering appetizers, which oftentimes are sodium and calorie rich.

9. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Reprioritize your commitments if needed to allow you to exercise for one hour daily.
The benefit of following my playbook is that I am no longer taking two prescription medications; only one now, and on average, my blood pressure is 118/79.

Helen Woodward is an author and health educator who has worked in the consumer health and wellness industry. Professionally, she spends her time teaching others how to gain control of high blood pressure. Learn more about Woodward and her book "Salt Is A Four Letter Word Higher Consciousness To Lower Blood Pressure" at helen-woodward.com.



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