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Last updated January 21, 2017 (originally published March 19, 2011)

By Muireann Prendergast, Associate Editor and Featured
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]

Did you know that there is a silent killer loose in the United
States? This silent killer, stalking your health, is high blood
pressure. The American Heart Association asserts that over
74.5 million people in the country over the age of 20 years old
have high blood pressure, also called "hypertension".

High blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults
and kills approximately 50,000 people in the United States
annually. High blood pressure might be a widespread problem
but is there anything we can do you improve the situation?
Are there dietary changes we can make that could help to
reduce high blood pressure? What foods should you avoid if
you have high blood pressure?

What Is High Blood Pressure?

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a body of the
National Institute of Health, defines blood pressure as the
force of blood against the walls of the arteries as the heart
pumps the blood. When the rate at which this happens
increases over time it is called high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured using special numbers. These
include systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic blood
pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping
Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart
is at rest between beats.

What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure?

What is the most worrying symptom of high blood pressure?
That it has no symptoms. You might be suffering from high
blood pressure without even knowing it. However, high blood
pressure can quietly be damaging the main organs of your
body. This damage could cause you to suffer a stroke or heart

Top 10 Foods That Raise Your Blood Pressure

What can we do in our daily life to reduce the chances than
this will happen to us? Studies have shown that certain foods
can increase our blood pressure. We have scoured our
resources to bring you ten of them.


A 2008 UK study carried out by researchers at The University
of Cambridge found a link between high dietary salt intake
and high salt pressure.

Our kidneys can process a certain level of salt but when more
than this manageable amount of salt is consumed it leaks into
the bloodstream. This salt collects water and the water then
increases the volume of our blood which produces high blood
pressure. This Cambridge study is significant because of the
size of the cohort used in the study which includes 11,000
men and women throughout Europe. (Read more about
much is too much salt in your diet.)

Processed Foods

The second DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
study released in 2000, based on nationwide studies carried
out by the National Institutes of Health, promoted the
reduction of processed foods in diet in favor of fresh fruits
and vegetables due to the high sodium content of processed
foods which, was here again linked to high blood pressure.
processed foods include most snacks, cold cuts and processed
meats such as salami and pepperoni.

Women who ate more than 5 servings of red meat per week
had a 17% higher risk for hypertension than women who ate
1 serving or less, a 2014 study found.

The study, conducted jointly by researchers from several
universities including the Harvard School of Public Health and
the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale,
Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in
France studied 44, 616 disease-free French women.

The study found a strong correlation between processed red
meat consumption but, interestingly, in this French study there
was no correlation between eating unprocessed meat and
high blood pressure. Perhaps part of the reason red meat may
not have produced high blood pressure in French women is
their otherwise very healthy lifestyles, involving plenty of
vegetables and physical activity.

Also, as you'll see later in this article, other studies have
reached different conclusion with respect to red meat.

Clearly, more studies are needed in this area to understand
what exactly is in processed meat that causes high blood

High Carbohydrate Diet

A 2008 study carried out at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas found that high-
carbohydrate, low-fat, diets caused "significantly higher"
systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure than low
carbohydrate diets.

Carbohydrates stimulate our production of insulin which also
causes our central nervous system to overwork and to
increase our blood pressure, according to the study.


The connection between insulin and high blood pressure has
been shown in other studies. A study from found that giving
insulin to people with Type 2 diabetes certainly helped their
diabetes control but it also had an unfortunate side effect -- it
raised their blood pressure significantly.

As the study concluded "the initiation of insulin treatment in
poorly controlled type 2 diabetes causes a temporary and
possibly clinically significant elevation of blood pressure."]


A 2010 study undertaken at University of Colorado Denver
found a relationship between over consumption of fructose, a
natural sugar found in fruit and table sugar, and high levels of
blood pressure.

The level of fructose consumption considered potentially
dangerous for blood pressure levels is 74g daily – the
equivalent of just 4 soft drinks. (Read more about the
dangers of soft drinks.)

Fatty Foods

A 2003 study carried out by the University of Georgia at
Augusta explored the link between fatty foods and high blood

The study found that fatty foods are linked to obesity and that
this condition causes the Leptin system in our bodies to fail.
The protein hormone, Leptin, triggers the body’s production
of the neurotransmitter catecholamine which regulates the
nervous system, in particular in relation to our stress levels.
Catecholamine, in turn, is supposed to shut down our Leptin
production, but, this often does not happen in obese people.
As a result they often suffer from high blood pressure.


Of course, the type of fat matters when it comes to your blood
pressure. Saturated fat --fat which is solid at room
temperature such as butter, lard or margarine --- has been
linked in numerous studies with increased blood pressure and
adverse cardiovascular events.  For this reason, the current
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet
advocated by the National Institute of Health and the
American Heart Association limits the amount of saturated fat
to 6% of your total 2000 calories per day.  That's 120 calories
a day for saturated fat, about the same amount you would get
with 3 pats of butter. Total fat must not exceed 27% of your
calorie intake.

Certain unsaturated fats have the opposite effect --they lower
your risk of developing high blood pressure. These fats, all of
which are liquid at room temperature, include olive oil, fish
oils, grape seed oil and canola oil. (Read more about the
health benefits of fish oil in your diet.]

Red Meat

A 2009 study published by the Maryland based National
Cancer Institute found a link between elevated red meat
intake and high blood pressure. The study found that those
with a high red meat intake, approximately 160g of red meat
daily, were more inclined towards elevated blood pressure
levels. Red meat can contain toxins consumed by the animal
that are potentially hazardous to humans.

Yohimbe Raises Blood Pressure

Yohimbe is an evergreen tree indigenous to Zaire, Cameroon
and Gabon. Yohimbe bark extracts are sometimes sold in
health food stores as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, as a
natural aphrodisiac and also as a weight loss supplement. A
1983 study carried out by researchers from Tennessee’s
Vanderbilt Medical School found that Yohimbe doses of (0.016-
0.125 mg/kg) caused a rise in systolic, and diastolic
hypertension by stimulating the blood’s plasma renin activity.


Tyramine is compound derived from the amino acid Tyrosine.
It is naturally found in dairy products and nuts. A 1998 Italian
study carried out at The University of Milan found that
Tyramine, as an adrenaline releasing agent, induced a
temporary rise in blood pressure.

Caffeine Raises Blood Pressure

A 1978 study published by researchers at Vanderbilt
University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, found that
Caffeine increased plasma renin activity by 57 per cent, plasma
norepinephrine by 75 per cent and plasma epinephrine by 207
per cent and can be linked to a rise in blood pressure. (Read
more about the link between
coffee and high blood pressure.)


A 2001 Finnish study conducted at Oulu University found a
relationship between alcohol intake and high blood pressure.
The study found that men with severe hypertension
manifested a 12-fold increased risk for cardiovascular disease
mortality associated with heavy binge drinking.


Reduce Cheese in Your Diet to Control Salt

An often-overlooked source of salt in your diet is cheese.  Salt
is key to the creation of cheese, used to control the bacteria
that makes cheese and to give cheese its taste.  Some cheeses
are so salty that a serving can contain more salt than sea
water or a bag of  potato chips.

A cup (100 grams) of grated parmesan cheese contains 1529
mg of sodium, more than a full day's limit of salt
recommended for those on a low salt diet. And parmesan,
believe it or not, is often wrongly cited as a "low salt" cheese

Always check the labels on cheese to learn their salt content,
even those so-called "low salt" cheeses such as mozzarella
and cottage cheese. However, in general, avoid cheeses if you
need to lower your blood pressure.

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The bark from the Yohimbe tree can raise
blood pressure and treat erectile dysfunction