Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects many. It’s a risk factor, along with high cholesterol and smoking, that can lead to heart disease.
About half of all Americans have at least one of the three risk factors.
High blood pressure is a medical condition that happens when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high.
The high pressure, if not controlled, can affect your heart and other major organs of your body, including your kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to measure your blood pressure.
You can lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes or with medicine to reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
A second risk factor is high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance made by the liver and found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but many of us get more cholesterol from the foods we eat.
If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys and other parts of the body.
Like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is to get it checked with a simple blood test.
The lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol include eating less saturated fat (found in animal foods), less trans fat (found in processed foods) and less salt. Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to lower sodium and fat intake.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating at least 1½ cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day, as well as limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day.
Add as many fruits and veggies to your diet as you can. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium and contain nutrients such as potassium that can help lower blood pressure.
Also try to eat lean sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish and lean meats as well as beans. Choose whole-grain breads and pastas and look for lower-sodium versions of canned and packaged foods.
The bottom line is diet alone may not completely cure or prevent high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but it can help.
Q: Are there foods that can help with bad breath?
A: One of the biggest culprits of bad breath, referred to as halitosis, is bacteria on the tongue, which can interact with amino acids in foods to produce a foul smell.
Decreased saliva production also prevents the mouth from cleansing itself by removing odor-causing food debris.
Eating foods like garlic and onions, as well as smoking, can also lead to stale breath.
Bad breath can sometimes signify a more serious underlying health condition, but for nonmedically related situations, several foods have natural compounds that help keep bacteria at bay.
Try apples, green tea, cherries, ginger, parsley, yogurt with probiotics, melons and cinnamon. In addition, stay hydrated with water, chew gum to stimulate salivary glands and avoid coffee.
Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
Here’s a heart healthy recipe from Hy-Vee’s Seasons magazine that can boost your fruit and vegetable intake and is low in sodium.
- ½ cup 100% pomegranate (or apple) juice
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ head butterhead lettuce, cored and separated into leaves
- ½ small head red radicchio, cored and cut into small wedges
- 2 heads red and/or green Belgian endive, separated into leaves
- 2 Anjou pears, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- 1 (4-ounce) package goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
- ½ (3.5-ounce) container caramelized walnuts
Bring pomegranate juice to a boil in a small saucepan; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes or until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Transfer to a small bowl; cool 5 minutes.
Add vinegar, maple syrup, poppy seeds and salt. Gradually whisk in olive oil until combined; set dressing aside.
Arrange butterhead lettuce, radicchio, endive, pear slices and grapes in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils; drizzle with half of the dressing.
Top salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Serve with remaining dressing.
Serves 6 (1½ cups each)
Per serving: 330 calories; 7 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams fat (4 grams saturated); 15 milligrams cholesterol; 9 grams fiber; 22 grams sugar (6 grams added); 180 milligrams sodium