Diet Tips If You Have High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure

Close-Up Of Halved butternut squash On Wooden Table
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If you have been diagnosed with both high cholesterol and high blood pressure, you may be feeling overwhelmed and confused about how to eat. Thankfully, there is much overlap in eating for these two conditions. Here are several tips to get you started.

Weight Control

Obtaining a healthy weight is important for controlling both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Following a set menu plan at a designated calorie level is an effective weight loss strategy.

Reduce Sodium

Not everyone is sensitive to sodium, meaning that not all individuals who eat a high sodium diet will develop high blood pressure as a result. Rather than acting as your own test subject to see if you are salt-sensitive or not, it is advisable to try to follow the American Heart Association's recommendation of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (less than 1 teaspoon of table salt) per day. Remember that this is a goal amount for the average of what you eat. If you overindulge in salty foods one day, balance your intake with very low sodium foods the next.

Tips for Reducing Sodium

The most common sources of salt in the American diet are table salt, canned and frozen/prepared foods, and condiments. The easiest ways to lower your sodium intake are not adding salt from the salt shaker, rinsing canned vegetables with water through a strainer, and asking for food to be prepared with little or no salt when dining out.

Increase Potassium

The landmark 2001 Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet study found that a diet high in potassium from fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products helped to lower total and LDL "bad" cholesterol in study participants.

High Potassium Foods (225 mg per 1/2 cup serving, or greater):

  • Apricots
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Chicken (choose baked, broiled, or grilled)
  • Fish (choose baked, broiled, or grilled fish)
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Meat (choose lean cuts, baked, broiled, or grilled)
  • Milk (choose low-fat or skim)
  • Oranges
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey (choose white meat)
  • Winter squash

You need to check with your doctor to see if a high potassium diet is right for you. Certain medical conditions or medications may require a potassium-restricted diet.

Reduce Saturated Fats

Replacing saturated fats (red meats, fried foods, full-fat dairy products) with healthier unsaturated and monounsaturated fats (like olive oil and canola oil) reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Trans-fats should also be avoided.

Increase Monounsaturated Fats

Replace saturated and trans fats with heart-healthy "good" fats from olive oil, fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, walnuts, olive oil, and avocado. In one review study published in 2014, Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.

Start Slowly

It can be difficult to make several diet changes at once, especially if you have been diagnosed with two medical conditions. Try making one healthy change a week for four weeks. Once you have mastered these improvements, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like a trip to the spa or to the movies. The second month, focus on maintaining these healthy habits and adding healthy variety to your meals. When you feel ready, try a fifth and sixth healthy change, and don't forget to reward yourself for the positive changes that you have made.

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Article Sources

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  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Why Is a Healthy Weight Important?

  2. American Heart Association. How much sodium should I eat per day? Updated May 23, 2018.

  3. Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(1):3-10. doi:10.1056/NEJM200101043440101

  4. Nettleton JA, Brouwer IA, Geleijnse JM, Hornstra G. Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke: A Science UpdateAnn Nutr Metab. 2017;70(1):26–33. doi:10.1159/000455681

  5. Miller PE, Van Elswyk M, Alexander DD. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Hypertens. 2014;27(7):885–896. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpu024