Blood pressure is simply the amount of force exerted when blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels. High blood pressure, or hypertension, places too much pressure on the vessel walls, making the heart work very hard to push blood through tighter arteries. Over time, high blood pressure weakens the heart and causes hardening of the artery walls, making them weak and susceptible to injury. Often, hypertension has no symptoms whatsoever, but this damage to the blood vessels or heart, may lead to stroke, heart failure, heart attack, kidney failure, and vision loss. This is why hypertension has the infamous nickname “the silent killer” (1).
Have you heard that reducing sodium can lower blood pressure? This is true for a lot of people (2). Sodium is found in a lot of foods in small amounts, and it makes up about 40% of table salt. It is necessary for the body in very small amounts, but most Americans eat entirely too much.
For most people, lifestyle changes will have a positive outcome on blood pressure. By following an exercise plan prescribed by your doctor, eating more fruits and vegetables, decreasing sodium while increasing potassium, and losing 10% of your body weight if you are overweight, you may reduce blood pressure (3). These are great reasons to add pears to your diet. Pears are sodium-free, fat-free, contain antioxidants and 190 mg of potassium, and when they replace higher calorie foods in the diet, may aid weight loss. Eating foods rich in potassium tends to reduce the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Other benefits of potassium include maintaining a normal heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
Just think, if you replace high-sodium, high-calorie foods in your diet with low-calorie, sodium-free foods such as pears, you’ll decrease your sodium intake even more.
Need to decrease hypertension? Start with fruits and vegetables
In 1,569 (642 men, 927 women) subjects in Ohasama, Japan, high-level consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with a significantly lower risk for hypertension. Likely due to their antioxidant properties, there was a strongly significant association between high potassium and vitamin C intakes and a lower risk for hypertension. Vitamin C has a strong correlation with high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, and thus, a high vitamin C intake seems to contribute to lower blood pressure. However, this is not the case with vitamin C supplements. Only vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables had a benefit, likely due to a combined and synergistic relationship at work between vitamin C, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Compared to those consuming the least amounts of fruit daily (15.6 grams/day), those consuming the most (222.7 grams/day) had a 45% lower risk of hypertension.
Utsugi MT, Ohkubo T, Kikuya M, Kurimoto A, Sato RI, Suzuki K, Metoki H, Hara A, Tsubono Y, Imai Y. Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of hypertension determined by self measurement of blood pressure at home: the Ohasama Study. Hypertension 2008;30(7):1435-1443.
1. American Heart Association, Hypertension. Available online here.
2. American Heart Association, Make Healthy Food Choices to Stop Hypertension. Available online here.
3. American Heart Association, High Blood Pressure – What Can Be Done? Available online here.
This site is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to treat any illness or condition. If you have questions or concerns about your health, seek advice from your physician.