In the United States, nearly one out of every three adults has high blood pressure. For a much scarier number, we’d like to translate “one out of every three” to a cold, hard 70 million American adults with hypertension. Another 70 million or so adults have prehypertension; this means that, while they don’t have what’s diagnosed as actual high blood pressure, their blood pressure numbers are higher than normal. This ailment costs our country about $46 billion each and every year, and with all of this in mind we’ve decided to update our list of 10 Foods That Put Your Blood Pressure Through the Roof in order to help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
Dr. Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC, is an internationally recognized cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. As a cardiac electrophysiologist, Dr. Campbell’s practice is focused on the treatment and prevention of sudden cardiac death. He has the following to say about high blood pressure:
“It is important to be aware of foods that are more likely to affect our blood pressure in a negative way. Many social activities involve eating and drinking with friends and family, and so it is essential to understand which foods to avoid and which foods should be approached with moderation.
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“Many studies have concluded that hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than 31 percent of all Americans and accounts for nearly 38 million doctor visits annually. High blood pressure accounts for nearly 26,000 deaths in the U.S. annually and is a leading risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
“Diet can play a major role in the development of high blood pressure. Diets high in fat and calories can result in obesity, which is a common risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. By the same token, diet can also play a very important role in the treatment and control of blood pressure. In many cases, patients who focus on weight-loss and diet can actually begin to be able to stop chronic medications that have been prescribed for control of hypertension. (It is essential that patients never start or stop any prescription medication without a doctor’s supervision.)
“Hypertension is a treatable risk factor for heart disease. By working closely with your doctor to modify your diet, you can prevent many of the negative health consequences of high blood pressure. Check out these top foods to avoid that may cause an increase in blood pressure.”
Not only can alcohol be detrimental to your sex drive, but studies have shown that drinking more than one drink per day can actually increase your blood pressure by several points. Sure, each country defines a standard drink differently and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can be healthy, but we’d say it’s a safe bet that three or more American serving sizes of booze (that’s three 12-ounce beers, five-ounce glasses of wine, or 1.5-ounce shots of liquor) classifies as a dangerous amount for your heart.
“I would not eat bacon, because it is full of fat and cholesterol, and the nutritional value is very minimal," says Dr. Omid Javadi, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, California. "I think bacon is probably one of the worst foods on the planet. When you look at its content, it is pure fat and cholesterol — and fat is just hanging from it.”
Just three slices of regular old bacon contain roughly 4.5 grams of fat and 270 milligrams of sodium. If you’re enjoying a BLT, you’ll probably be using more than just three slices of this salty fat bomb, making BLT less “Bacon Lettuce Tomato” and more “Big Lardy Tubes” (those are your arteries we’re joking about here, folks).
3. Canned Spaghetti Sauce
These processed, store-bought tomato sauces can contain a great deal of sodium (one popular brand has 480 milligrams per half-cup serving) and can directly affect the ability of the kidneys to remove excess water. Water retention contributes to elevations in blood pressure, placing your heart into overdrive. If you’re interested in making homemade spaghetti, we suggest closely monitoring the amount of salt and salty ingredients that you add in.
This just in: America has an overabundance of cheese. Before you go stock up on a bunch of solidified cow juice (that was meant to deter you from doing so, by the way), consider the following facts about cheese and its heart-harming saltiness. Roquefort cheese, as delicious as it may be, contains 507 milligrams (21 percent of your recommended daily intake) of sodium per 28 gram serving. The amount in a package (or 85 grams) is an astounding 1,538 milligrams of sodium. Per 28-gram serving, queso seco contains 21 percent of your daily sodium intake. Romano comes in at 17 percent, parmesan at 16 percent, and blue cheese at 13 percent. The next time you’re deciding which cheese is best for a grilled cheese, keep those numbers in mind.
5. Chinese Food
Yes, America’s 30 Best Chinese Restaurants are phenomenal, and we enjoy eating their vast, varied, delicious offerings as much as anyone else. What makes the food taste so good, though? Sodium — Chinese food is laden with sodium. A common entrée such as beef and broccoli (even if it’s an Americanized “Chinese” food that you won’t actually find in China) can contain almost 3,000 milligrams of sodium (and you thought Roquefort cheese was bad). If you add soy sauce, add an additional 1,000 milligrams. This type of salt load can substantially raise blood pressure and cause you to retain excess fluid, so consider ordering your toppings on the side and your meats and vegetables steamed instead of fried and slathered in salty, sugary sauces.
Caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee can cause a significant spike in blood pressure, something that’s bad for your heart and can also cause your libido to disappear. Caffeine may cause the adrenal glands to release excess cortisol and adrenaline —substances that typically cause a further rise in blood pressure.
7. Cured Hams
While ham steak may be your dad’s favorite meal (and perfect for summertime dining when paired with cantaloupe in a salad), you should probably let him know that it’s not doing anything good for his blood pressure. A 28-gram serving of boneless cured ham has 172 milligrams of sodium and 15 grams of fat (five of which come from saturated fats). That serving is a measly ounce, meaning a moderately portioned four-ounce slice of ham has about 688 grams of sodium. Thus, we suggest limiting your intake, saving tasty ham recipes for holidays like Easter.