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5 Foods That Cause High Blood Pressure, According to Experts

September 26, 2023

Not to be a bummer, but high blood pressure is more common than you think—nearly half of adults (48.1%, to be exact) have hypertension. According to the World Health Organization, any blood pressure reading 140/90 mmHg or above is considered high. Moreover, hypertension, another term for high blood pressure, can cause a laundry list of health issues.

“High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues,” shares Ashley Kitchens, MPH, RDN, LDN at Plant Centered Nutrition.

She explains that, if left untreated, high blood pressure can damage vital organs and lead to health complications. “Long-term exposure to high blood pressure can also weaken arteries and make them more vulnerable to plaque buildup, leading to hardening or narrowing of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.”

Kitchens also shares that, over time, high blood pressure can cause fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and headaches. “People with high blood pressure are also at more risk for developing other serious conditions such as elevated cholesterol levels and diabetes,” she adds.

Thankfully, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure in check. For starters, you can limit how often you eat foods that cause high blood pressure and instead replace them with healthier alternatives.

“It’s important to note that while individual nutrients can influence blood pressure, overall dietary patterns play a significant role,” explains Liz Keller, MS, CNS, director of Nutrition for Holistic Nutrition Therapy at Well-Choices.

Keeping this in mind, Keller points out that diets, including DASH, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” can help. “This diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, has been shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure,” Keller adds.

From sugary sodas to salty snacks, we look at some foods that cause high blood pressure.

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1. Cold cuts and cured meats

Sure, cold cuts and cured meats like ham, turkey, salami, and more are delicious and convenient, but eating them in excess may negatively affect your blood pressure.

Elizabeth Huggins, RDN at Hilton Head Health, explains that the American Heart Association has coined a term, “the salty six,” that refers to six food categories high in sodium. Cold cuts and cured meats are one of them. The other five categories include bread and rolls, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches.

“All of these items have a few things in common: they are high in sodium, and they contain ultra-processed ingredients,” she explains. “It’s not that one particular food is the villain, but when a person’s overall pattern of eating is high in sodium and low in important nutrients that are essential for maintaining normal blood pressure, it becomes a problem.”

Instead, eat cold cuts and cured meats only in moderation. You can also switch them out with healthier options, such as meat that has been prepared and cooked at home.

2. Salty snacks

Kitchens echoes that excessive salt can contribute to high blood pressure. A common culprit: salty snacks.

“Eating processed foods or snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn can increase your sodium intake and raise your blood pressure,” she explains.

It’s essential to know that chips, pretzels, and popcorn can all have differing amounts of sodium. For instance, a bag of nacho cheese-flavored Doritos has 210 milligrams of sodium per serving, whereas lightly salted Tostitos have 55 milligrams of sodium per serving. Because of this, make sure you read nutrition labels before purchasing products to make healthier food choices.

3. Fast food

Although quick and tasty, eating excessive amounts of fast food can also harm your health. Kitchens points out that fast food is also often high in sodium and unhealthy fats that can cause adverse effects to your blood pressure levels.

To give you a better idea, the Big Mac from McDonald’s has 1,050 milligrams of sodium, and Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme has over 1,210 milligrams of sodium.

“Eating burgers, fries, and other fried items regularly can raise your [blood pressure] readings over time,” Kitchens points out. “It’s best to limit the amount of fast food you eat if you are trying to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.”

4. Soda and sugary drinks

Kaytee Hadley, MS, RDN, IFMCP, CPT, a functional medicine dietitian and founder of Holistic Health and Wellness, shares that if you’re concerned about high blood pressure, try to keep an eye on how much soda you drink.

“Not only does it contain caffeine, but it also packs a punch of added sugar, both of which can raise blood pressure,” she explains.

Instead, Hadley suggests replacing traditional sugar-filled sodas with herbal tea, water with fruit or mint leaves, or low-sugar, non-caffeinated carbonated options. “My personal favorite is the prebiotic soda Poppi that is made with simple ingredients, 5 grams of sugar or less, and the same amount of delicious fizz,” she mentions.

5. Alcohol

“While moderate alcohol consumption might not significantly raise blood pressure, excessive drinking can lead to hypertension,” explains Keller.

According to a 2018 study published in PLOS One, research found that alcohol consumption was linked to higher blood pressure in men who reported moderate or excessive alcohol consumption.

This same research uncovered that women who drink alcohol excessively are three times more likely to have elevated blood pressure, whereas binge drinkers who drink more than two to three times per month have around 70% more chance of high blood pressure.

Read next: 7 Heart-Healthy Dinner Recipes for a Healthy Ticker

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