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Be Aware of What You Eat

Did you know that what you eat and the weight you can gain because of what you eat can increase your risk for high blood pressure?

Many people, including many Laborers, have high blood pressure or are headed for it. High blood pressure affects one in every three Americans and one in every five Canadians. Heredity, race and age can increase risk, but more than anything else, diet is why this condition is so prevalent. Processed convenience store foods, fast foods and pre-prepared foods from grocery stores and restaurants make up the bulk of what many people eat today. Most of these foods are not only full of salt – itself a risk for developing high blood pressure – but also sugar and fat, which makes them high in calories. With routine consumption, excess pounds pile on. Obesity makes high blood pressure more likely, but even being a few pounds over your appropriate weight increases the risk.

High Blood Pressure and Weight

When you are overweight, the additional pounds make it harder for blood to circulate. Subsequently, more blood vessels develop. This creates added demand for blood and in turn stresses the heart. It has to pump harder, which makes your heart rate soar. Meanwhile, the increased flow of blood damages the artery walls. Chronic high blood pressure that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke can result. However, because high blood pressure itself has few symptoms, it often takes a heart attack or stroke for someone to learn they have the condition. If they survive, permanent harm to their health is likely.

Losing weight by paying attention to what you eat can reduce high blood pressure and the risk for high blood pressure. Shed excess pounds by:

  • Eating foods that are lower in fat, salt and sugar
  • Using spices and herbs instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Using less oil, butter, margarine, shortening and salad dressings

Include more of these foods in your diet:

  • Skim or 1% milk
  • Lean meat
  • Skinless turkey and chicken
  • Low-salt, ready-to-eat cereals
  • Cooked hot cereal (not instant)
  • Low-fat and low-salt cheeses
  • Fruits (fresh, frozen, or canned without added sugar)
  • Vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned without added salt)
  • Plain brown rice, whole wheat pasta, potatoes
  • Whole grain breads (bagels, English muffins, rolls, tortillas)

Reduce your consumption of:

  • Fried foods
  • Fast foods
  • Fatty meats
  • Deli meats
  • Canned soups
  • Butter and margarine
  • Regular salad dressings
  • Salted snacks (potato chips, popcorn, pretzels)

The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division offers a workshop on nutrition and fitness for Laborers. For more information, call 202-628-5465. Brochures offering tips on nutrition, diet and general wellness can be ordered through the online Publications Catalogue.

Next month, a look at the importance of home monitoring when you have high blood pressure.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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