19 Foods and Drinks That Are Putting Your Blood Pressure Through the Roof
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.
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. Manysocial 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.
“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, in our piece 27 Foods Doctors Won’t Eat and Why. "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 one of these 12 delicious, unique BLT recipes, 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).
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 trying one of our 25 Spaghetti Recipes That Will Remind You of Your Childhood, 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.
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.
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.
Processed deli meats are one of the many foods that hide large amounts of sodium under a seemingly healthy vail. Dr. Rohit Chandra, child and adult psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital-Chelsea and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told us that processed meats often have high levels of sodium. Cutting out processed meats is just one in a slew of great ways to reduce your sodium intake, making your heart healthier along the way.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, talk show host, best-selling author, and Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, has this to say about French fries: “They sometimes… have hydrogenated fats from being basted in boiling oils containing damaged fats. These trans-fats increase cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease. They do increase shelf life, but at the cost of human life.”
In addition, the average serving of fast-food fries can have nearly 300 grams of sodium in just one serving. We suggest faking this unhealthy, popular snack by baking sweet potatoes with heart-healthy oils instead.
While healthy frozen pizzas do exist, finding one that has very little sodium is an ongoing uphill battle. Kashi, a brand that normally produces the healthiest frozen pies, has recently removed its health-conscious, whole-grain pizzas from its website (we can’t seem to figure out why). Other frozen pizza brands can contain as much as 2,500 milligrams of sodium along with lots of carbohydrates and fat. Don’t think that seeking out one of the 101 Best Pizzas in America will help you, either. Just because they’re fresh doesn’t mean they won’t still have plenty of sodium, carbs, and unhealthy fats.
Before you reach your hand into that bowl of pretzels, remind yourself that there’s about 1,030 milligrams of sodium in just 10 of the hard little guys. That’s 43 percent of the daily recommended sodium allowance. Choosing a soft pretzel or any other amazing type of pretzel from around the world isn’t much healthier. One salted soft pretzel can contain upwards of 550 milligrams of sodium, an amount that no heart will enjoy processing.
Pickled vegetables also contain a substantial load of sodium. These tasty treats, from regular old pickles to any of these 11 Delicious Things You Didn’t Know You Could Pickle, can raise blood pressure — just one dill pickle spear has about 380 milligrams of sodium. Have you ever eaten just one pickle? Yeah, neither have we.
A single serving of chicken pot pie has about 1,400 mg of sodium in addition to 35 grams of fat. That's more than 50 percent of your daily recommended intake for both, and that’s just one recommended serving. Trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease, often appear in premade frozen pot pies. Lower your blood pressure by avoiding the chicken pot pie and trying one of our 11 Quick and Healthy Grilled Chicken Recipes instead.
While our 17 Unexpected Ways to Cook With Ramen Noodles may be incredibly tempting, think about whether you’d rather have a long, healthy life or a salty Ramen Noodle Bowl With Chicken Thighs instead. One package of generic ramen noodles can contain 14 grams of fat and an astounding 1,580 mg of sodium. That shiny, silver flavor packet? Yeah, that’s the sodium-sewing culprit here. Without it, the noodles alone have about 500 milligrams of sodium. We'll let you do the math.
There’s about 710 milligrams of sodium in just one 28-gram serving of pumpkin seeds. Sure, pumpkin seeds have a lot of healthy attributes, but you’re better off roasting your own without salt if you want to keep your blood pressure stable.
Red meat: To eat it or not to eat it, that is the question. While there are plenty of reasons people should and shouldn’t eat red meat, a potential rise in blood pressure is certainly something that could put you in the “red meat sucks” camp. An 18-ounce ribeye from one of America’s 50 Best Steakhouses isn’t just meat — there’s going to be salt and a buttery finish involved almost every time. A ribeye of that size can contain 79 grams of fat (some of which being the heart-unhealthy kind of fat) and 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
Refined sugars can contribute to fat deposition in the body, and this often results in obesity. Sugars have been shown to increase blood pressure, particularly in those who are overweight. While quickly removing refined sugar from a diet can cause withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced when cold turkeying a drug (fatigue, depression, headaches, and achy limbs), saving your heart, lowering your weight, and extending your life are well worth the cost of a few headaches.
Sauerkraut can certainly reduce your anxiety, but at what price? With over 460 mg of sodium in one serving, anxiety-reducing, calorie-sparse sauerkraut isn’t quite as healthy as one may think.