Getting back to a busy work schedule after a relaxing summer filled with long weekend getaways and half-day Fridays is never easy, but can also wreak havoc with your stress levels, which can result in high blood pressure.
Nearly a third of Americans have high blood pressure and another third have pre-hypertension, a condition in which your blood pressure is higher than normal but not quite high enough to be considered hypertension. Keeping stress levels low is important to maintain a healthy 120/80 reading, but we can also lower our blood pressure by eating a healthy diet. Lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables…all of these are great, but you also have to be careful about what not to eat.
Salt and sodium are the usual suspects that contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. The average American eats more than twice the recommended amount of sodium, usually thanks to packaged foods. Want to start cutting down? Here are foods you should avoid.
1. Deli Meats and Bacon
Processed deli and lunch meats and bacon are loaded with sodium. These meats often are cured, seasoned, and preserved with salt. A 2 oz serving of some lunchmeats could set you back by 600 mg of sodium or more.
Preserving any food requires salt, which turns a nutritious cucumber into a sodium sponge. The longer vegetables sit in canning and preserving liquids, the more sodium they can pick up. A whole dill pickle spear can contain as much as 300 mg of sodium.
Alcohol seems like a good way to relax after a long day, but can have incredibly negative effects on blood pressure in the long run. The American Heart Association recommends avoiding all types of alcoholic beverages for those of us with prehypertension or hypertension.
Sugar, especially sugar-sweetened drinks, has contributed to an increase in obesity in people of all ages. High blood pressure is more common in individuals who are overweight or obese. Currently, the USDA does not have a recommended daily limit for sugars, but the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
5. Energy Drinks
As well as lots of sugar, energy drinks contain taurine and caffeine and have been shown to increase blood pressure enough to impact the natural rhythm of the heart. Avoid them altogether. Drink water instead.