Healthy Tahoe: Managing hypertension through diet

Kristine Travis, RDN
Kristine Travis

A high blood pressure diagnosis, or hypertension, can be scary, as it contributes significantly to the risk of heart attacks and strokes. While nearly half of all adults have hypertension, according to the American Heart Association, there are many lifestyle habits you can adopt to reduce or prevent high blood pressure. 

Avoid salt and processed foods. Studies show that reducing salt (sodium) intake lowers blood pressure. Salt can be found in many of the foods we eat, and most of our sodium intake comes from processed foods. By cutting back on processed foods, we can reduce sodium intake. Processed foods are generally in a box or wrapper, and contain many ingredients.

Hold the sugar. Many studies have shown that increased consumption of sugar, especially sugar sweetened beverages, is associated with higher blood pressure. Decreasing sugar intake is a good idea all around, and cutting out sugary drinks is a very effective way to easily and significantly reduce your sugar intake. As a bonus, reducing processed food intake from tip No. 1 will also reduce your sugar intake. 

Up the potassium. Potassium counteracts sodium by regulating the fluid in and out of our cells. So it makes sense that high intake of potassium is associated with lower blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include: fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, avocados, tomatoes, and of course bananas, as well as beans, nuts, and potatoes.

CoQ10. This supplement is a powerful antioxidant that protects your brain, heart, and muscles. Your body makes less as you age, and health conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease lead to lower levels of CoQ10. At a dosage of 120-225 mg/day, several studies show a meaningful reduction in blood pressure, working towards healthy levels. Make sure to consult your doctor before beginning any supplementation, especially if you take medications.

Exercise. Exercise helps lower blood pressure — and it doesn’t have to be high-intensity or a grueling distance. In fact, a study showed that small, frequent bouts of activity provide greater benefit for hypertension, such as three 10-minute walks versus one 30-minute walk. Find an activity that can be enjoyable and set small goals to increase over time. 

Sleep. While not always easy, sleep quantity and quality can help lower blood pressure.

Practice meditation/ deep breathing. If getting angry and worked-up can “make your blood boil,” it may be no surprise that engaging in the opposite, deep breathing and/ or meditating, is shown to reduce blood pressure. 

There are many ways to naturally lower your blood pressure, or prevent it from becoming elevated. Incorporate some or all of these tips into your lifestyle, and reap the benefits of better health. 

Kristine Travis is a registered dietitian nutritionist with Barton Health. For more information or to schedule a consultation with a Barton dietitian, call 530-543-5824 or visit

Barton Nutrition’s Ariel Rearick, RDN will host a free Wellness Webinar: “Nutrition and Chronic Disease Management” at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 9. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at

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