Treating Hypertension with a Lifestyle Approach

By Denise Hernandez, MS, RD, LD

Houston Medical Times


The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released updated blood pressure guidelines, where the definition of an elevated blood pressure has changed from 140/90 to 120/80. Anything above will now group several Americans as hypertensive. If an individual finds themselves in the elevated blood pressure category, an evidence-based, non-drug intervention is first recommended (the physician will use some guidelines to determine whether medication is necessary).


Dietary Intervention

One of the highest regarded approaches to managing blood pressure is a diet called the DASH diet, which is high in plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables. A positive consequence of eating more fruits and vegetables is that an individual’s potassium intake increases. Potassium will decrease the effects of sodium, by increasing the amount of sodium that is lost in urine and also helps to ease the tension in your blood vessel walls.


Potassium and Your Diet

It is recommended that we consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. Most Americans consume an average 2,150 milligrams on a good day1. The best natural sources of potassium come from fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy and fish. For example, half a cup of plain mashed sweet potatoes contains about 475 mg of potassium. Other potassium-rich foods include:


Apricots Greens – all Lentils Peas Spinach
Avocados Grapefruit Milk Potatoes Tomatoes
Beans Halibut Mushrooms Prunes Tuna
Cantaloupe Honeydew Oranges Raisins Yogurt


Can you have too much potassium?

Most often potassium toxicities are seen through supplementation. Therefore, always consult with your healthcare professional (physician, pharmacist, dietitian) before considering any over-the-counter potassium supplement. Anyone with a kidney disorder should also be weary due to the inability to remove potassium from the blood, causing a build-up.