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Online learning resources for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and nutrition.
Diabetes 101: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels, and your diet.
Diabetes 201: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugars, and your diet.
Asthma 101: Learn more about asthma and dealing with shortness of breath.
Hypertension 101: Learn more about hypertension and managing your blood pressure.
Nutrition 101: Learn more about improving your nutrition and diet

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Lesson 4 - Decisions, Decisions: Diet and Exercise Regimens

Back to Hypertension Channel

Healthy diet—lower your sodium, lower your risk

This one is pretty straightforward. High levels of sodium in your body increase your blood pressure and decrease the effectiveness of antihypertensive medications. So what do we need to do? That's right — decrease our sodium intake! No two ways about it, studies have shown that most hypertensive patients who cut back on their sodium intake have a measurable decrease in blood pressure and can lower the doses of their blood pressure medications. It's as simple as that.

Indeed, some people are more affected by sodium than others, such as African Americans and the elderly. However, all Americans, regardless of high-risk or health status, should limit their intake of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. It's important to keep track of ALL forms of sodium in your diet. This includes sodium found in processed foods (processed foods comprise about 75% of the salt you eat!), what you add at the table, and so on. Even diet soda is high in sodium, so pay close attention! On average, Americans consume about 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day — almost everyone has some work to do on this aspect of their diet!

The DASH diet
Well, since we're specifically talking about diet with reference to hypertension, now is a great time to introduce the DASH Diet. Short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this diet is recommended as an important element in the control of high blood pressure. It is low in fat, rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low- or no-fat dairy products. It is also chock-full of beneficial minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium — all of which are important in treating hypertension. Learn more about the DASH Diet in our hypertension library. You can also access it through the use of SavvyHEALTH's exclusive nutrition tool!

Potassium, magnesium and calcium
There is evidence out there suggesting that sufficient intake of certain minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium can have a beneficial impact on high blood pressure. In most cases, you can consume adequate quantities of these minerals through a well-balanced diet.

A note on potassium
Foods rich in potassium are fruits and vegetables. Hence, if you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should have no trouble getting proper amounts of potassium into your system. However, there are some medications that can have a side effect of depleting potassium in the body. People on these medications might benefit from a potassium supplement. On the other hand, too much potassium can cause some very serious problems, such as stomach distress, muscle weakness, or, most worrisome, heart dysfunction. Hence, people with kidney failure, or taking anti-inflammatories, ACE-inhibitors, or potassium-sparing diuretics — which can increase potassium levels in the body — need to avoid excess potassium. As always, you should ask your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.

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