High Blood Pressure and Heart Health

By Brandy Buro, RD, LD
February 13, 2024


February is National Heart Month and we want to focus on the connection between nutrition and hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure checked is a simple test that happens during a medical professional visit. But what do the blood pressure levels mean? If you have high blood pressure, have you ever considered that your food choices could be influencing your blood pressure numbers?

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a very complicated topic with many different causes, but as nutritionists we want to share information about what foods increase blood pressure, what nutrients help to prevent and lower high blood pressure, and what supplements we recommend to help manage high blood pressure issues. 

What Is Blood Pressure?

Your blood vessels carry blood to all the parts of your body. When the heart pumps the blood, it is pushed against the walls of your arteries as it travels through your body. Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood creates and can be a marker for how healthy your arteries are.

How Blood Pressure Is Measured

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers, commonly shown as one number over the other. For example, a normal blood pressure reading would be 120/80. The top number measures the systolic blood pressure. Systolic is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats or when the heart muscle contracts. The lower number is the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats when the heart rests and is filling with blood.

Again, a normal range for blood pressure is less than 120 for the top number and less than 80 for the bottom number.

According to the CDC and The American College of Cardiology, the first stage of hypertension (high blood pressure) begins when the systolic blood pressure is between 130-139 and the diastolic is between 80-89.

Blood Pressure Categories

It's important to work with your medical professional to know your blood pressure numbers and what to do if your blood pressure readings are out of the ideal range. The tricky thing with high blood pressure is that there often aren't any signs of high blood pressure, which is why high blood pressure is considered “the silent killer” and why it's important to get your blood pressure regularly checked.

blood-pressure-graphic.jpgWhat Happens In Your Blood Vessels When You Have High Blood Pressure?

When you have high blood pressure, it's likely that your arteries are stiff. You can imagine your blood vessels like a worn-out garden hose that gets stiff and clogged with debris. As the arteries harden and build more debris, the heart has to pump harder to get the blood flow through, increasing the pressure against the artery walls.

The amount of pressure your blood has against your arteries leaves you at risk for other health problems because excessive pressure can damage your blood vessels, especially the fragile vessels that go to important organs like your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. These vital organs receive blood flow through small vessels, which are more susceptible to damage due to their size.

Inflammation Of Arteries Increases Blood Pressure

High blood pressure and many other cardiovascular problems are caused by inflammation. We know when your joints are chronically inflamed, you can get arthritis. If your lungs are inflamed, you can develop asthma. If your brain is inflamed, there's a risk for Alzheimer's. If your arteries are chronically inflamed, they become damaged, stiff, and clogged with plaque, increasing your blood pressure.

What Might Cause Your Arteries To Be Inflamed And Stiff?

  • cigarettes.jpgSome genetics play in with this issue: do you have a family history of heart disease or heart issues? If yes, you might have to be more diligent with caring for your heart to mitigate developing high blood pressure.

  • Smoking: there are 300 different toxins in tobacco that damage your arteries. Smoking has been found to raise blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and speed up the plaque buildup in your arteries causing serious health problems, high blood pressure among them.

  • Processed foods high in carbs: refined, processed carbs convert into sugar very quickly when they are digested. Sugar in any form creates more inflammation throughout our bodies, and certainly in our arteries.

    What foods give us all that hidden sugar? Soda, cakes, doughnuts, muffins, pizza, potato chips, corn chips, popcorn, bread, rolls, bagels, English muffins, beer and French fries to name a few. Sugar equals inflammation, equals stiff arteries, equals high blood pressure.

  • Refined oils and damaged fats: these damaged oils and fats also create more inflammation in the body and make the membranes of all your cells hard and crusty, including the cells in your arteries. This leads to the hardening of your arteries and contributes to why you may develop high blood pressure. We want flexible arteries so blood can flow freely to supply blood throughout our body.

Food To Help Maintain Normal Blood Pressure Numbers

Vitamin K: All forms of vitamin K play a role in heart health, but vitamin K2 is most known for helping prevent calcium deposits in soft tissue. Without sufficient vitamin K, your arteries can become calcified and stiff.

What does calcification look like in your arteries? This is when calcium gets deposited in the soft tissue of the arteries instead of the bones, which makes the arteries stiff and causes elevated blood pressure.

Vitamin K Foods include: Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, beet greens, collard greens, chard, mustard greens and chicken, beef, pork, liver, eggs, fermented foods.

Potassium: Potassium is a mineral essential for your blood vessels to dilate (expand), allowing blood to flow through them easily, helping keep your blood pressure normal. For blood vessel health we should try to get about 4500mg of potassium daily from our food. 

Potassium Foods include: Broccoli, bananas, kiwis, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomato sauce, beet greens, kidney beans, carrots, winter squash, spinach and avocadoes.

bowl-chili.jpgTip: Chili would be a great high potassium meal. With the tomato sauce, kidney beans, some chopped carrots, you have over 1500 mg of potassium for lunch. Add a salad and you double that number.  It is easy to get 4500mg of potassium daily!

Lifestyle Habits To Help In Lowering Blood Pressure

walking-dog.jpgStress management: Just like food has a connection to how you feel, there is also a mind-body connection. If you have a lot of stress in your life, it can be hard to relax the systems in your body.

Stress of all kinds increases the heart rate and blood pressure, in the moment. Chronic stress elevates blood pressure long-term and worsens damage to the arteries. Explore some stress management tools to help bring a sense of calm and reduce the risk factors that come with elevated blood pressure levels.

Sleep: a great tool for stress management and recovery! If you aren't getting enough sleep, a lot of things with your health can be out of whack. We have many podcasts and articles on how to improve your quality of sleep if you need help in this area.

Exercise: physical activity will increase your blood pressure in the moment, but overall it will improve the health of your cardiovascular system.

Think of your heart like a muscle. When you exercise the heart, it gets stronger, and it is able to do more work with less effort over time. Exercise can also be a great stress management tool and help improve your sleep! The American Heart Association recommends getting 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five times a week.

What Supplements Support The Health Of Your Arteries?

Whenever our nutritionists and dietitians work with clients at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we always address food first because we understand food matters. If your diet is lacking in certain items, you may need to fill in the gaps with high quality supplements, especially if your blood pressure is trending up into the at-risk ranges.

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium Glycinate is the first supplement we recommend for blood pressure. 68% of the population is deficient in this mineral and magnesium is important to relax all the muscles in your body.

In addition to our heart being a muscle, our arteries are actually muscles, so magnesium helps the arteries relax (or dilate), meaning the heart doesn't have to pump as hard for the blood to flow. Less effort or pressure is needed for blood flow!

Omega-3 fatty acids

Not many people eat a can of sardines daily, so most people need a good quality fish oil supplement. Essential omega-3 fatty acids help reduce overall inflammation and prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3 helps increase HDL cholesterol, which clears out the type of cholesterol that can clog arteries.

For blood pressure management I recommend 3000-4000mg/day.

Vitamin D3

Elevated blood pressure which results in an increased risk for a heart attack is associated with a vitamin D deficiency. Your vitamin D levels can be checked with a simple blood test and is safe and easy to supplement (NutriKey even has a D3 with K2 to give you even more heart-healthy benefits!)


Like mentioned in this article, potassium is an important mineral to get from real food sources. If you aren't eating enough potassium rich foods or if you take a diuretic, you may need to supplement. Often folks with high blood pressure will be prescribed a diuretic to help manage blood pressure.


CoQ10 is a heart healthy antioxidant that supports energy, metabolism, immune function, cardiovascular and gum health. Often people with high blood pressure will also have high cholesterol and will be prescribed a statin. Certain statin medications stop the liver's production of CoQ10. In fact, when a statin is prescribed in Europe, they also prescribe CoQ10.

Nutritionist Counseling To Support Heart Health

Hypertension is a very complicated health condition, but one that can be course-corrected with many solution options. Food matters and lifestyle changes can make a big impact. There are many other supplements that support cardiovascular health, but we believe it is best to make an appointment with one of the nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. We can help you make the best plan customized just for you!

One on one support for your health goals with a licensed and registered nutritionist or dietitian.


Understanding Blood Pressure Readings | American Heart Association

High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes | cdc.gov

What Causes High Blood Pressure And How To Fix It - Dr. Mark Hyman (drhyman.com)

About the author

Brandy is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Her mission is to help people discover for themselves the positive impact real food can make in their lives. “It gives me so much joy to help people make meaningful changes and witness the powerful transformations that follow. I remember how empowering it felt to take control of my health, and I want to help my clients do the same. I love sharing what I know and learning from my clients’ experiences in the process.” 

View all posts by Brandy Buro, RD, LD


I wonder if Blue Cross, Blue Sheild of Ill. covers this part of Nutritional Weigh and well ness.

February 20, 2024 at 9:59 am


You can find more information about insurance for nutrition counseling here

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