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High Blood Pressure

Lower Blood Pressure With a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk for heart disease.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly half of adults in the United States. Hypertension is a major risk factor for multiple cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, stroke, end-stage renal disease, and peripheral vascular disease. It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, because hypertension usually has no symptoms, meaning many affected individuals are unaware they have the condition.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can significantly help reduce blood pressure and can reduce, sometimes even eliminate, the need for medication. When making a diet change, continue to work closely with your health care provider to manage changes in your medications.

People who follow a plant-based diet typically have lower blood pressure than those who consume animal products. The authors of a 2014 meta-analysis reviewed 39 studies and found that when compared to those who eat meat, vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure.

A review in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease looked at multiple clinical trials and observational studies and found that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of hypertension by 34%. A review published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at 39 studies and found that vegetarian diets were associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures, compared with omnivorous diets. A study in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology concluded that consuming a diet that is mostly or exclusively plant-based appears beneficial for both the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

Why? Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Plant products are also generally low in fat and sodium and are free of cholesterol. Avoiding meat, dairy products, and added fats also reduces the blood’s viscosity (or “thickness”), which makes the blood easier to pump. This also brings down blood pressure.

Keeping sodium low can also help lower blood pressure. In one meta-analysis, sodium restriction reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.6 mmHg. Reduce sodium intake by limiting or avoiding processed foods, canned foods, snack foods, and dairy products and by limiting the use of salt in food preparation or consumption. In their natural state, vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes are very low in sodium.

It is also important to maintain a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight tends to raise the risk of developing high blood pressure, as the heart must work harder to pump blood around the body.

Exercising can also help reduce your risk of hypertension.

How To Reduce Blood Pressure