High blood pressure (hypertension) means that the force of blood pushing against your arteries is too high. This strains your heart as it has to work harder to pump blood around your body, increasing the risk of heart disease. Hypertension affects about 10% of pregnant women (1). This article provides evidence based tips for how to reduce blood pressure during pregnancy through changing your diet.
1. Decrease salt consumption (salt contains sodium)
Based on significant evidence, the WHO states that high sodium consumption (>2 grams/day, equivalent to 5 g salt/day) contributes to high blood pressure. The majority of people consume too much salt. The WHO recommends that adults including pregnant people consume less than 5 g (slightly less than 1 teaspoon of salt) per day. There are many food sources of salt (many of which do not taste salty), for example processed foods especially ready meals, bread, meat, milk, condiments. A tip to reduce salt consumption is to not add salt to food during cooking and get rid of the salt shaker on the table. When reducing salt intake, food may taste less flavourful at the beginning, but soon your taste buds will adapt so that the food will taste flavourful (2).
2. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet
Based on significant evidence, the WHO states that not consuming enough potassium contributes to high blood pressure (3). Potassium supplementation to increase potassium intake was shown to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Increasing consumption of dietary potassium intake can effectively lower blood pressure (4). The WHO recommends that children and adults including pregnant people should increase their daily potassium intake to at least 90 mmol (around 3500 mg) (3). Examples of foods high in potassium recommended for pregnant people include sweet potatoes, melon, bananas, tomatoes and kidney beans (5).
3. Increase your consumption of vitamin D
Studies have shown that increasing Vitamin D consumption significantly lowers blood pressure (6, 7). Foods high in vitamin D include oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods such as cereals (8).
4. Avoid alcohol
Research shows that alcohol increases blood pressure (9). Alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage and may negatively affect the development of the baby. The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that pregnant women should not drink alcohol (10).
5. Convert from a Western diet to a Mediterranean diet to lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol and blood pressure
Research has shown that the Western diet (large quantities of potatoes, mixed meat, white bread) can contribute to pregnancy associated hypertension. Reducing the Western diet can decrease pregnancy associated hypertension. In contrast, the ‘Seafood diet’ (effectively a Mediterranean diet) that involves eating an abundance of fish and vegetables decreases the risk of developing pregnancy associated hypertension (11).
High ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol can increase blood pressure. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet lowers ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (12). Learn more about how to decrease cholesterol through diet and lifestyle.
A Mediterranean diet involves eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil (13). Read more on the Mediterranean diet.
4 week Personalised Mediterranean diet Reset Your Health Plan
Even with these evidence-based tips for reducing blood pressure through diet in pregnancy, this can seem challenging. Fortunately, Reset Your Health has a 4 week plan specifically designed by a team of doctors, nutritionists, chefs and scientists for people who would like to manage their blood pressure. This 4 week plan includes a wide range of tasty, easy and affordable Mediterranean diet style recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which can help you manage your blood pressure and improve your health.
If you would like to find out more about the science behind how to achieve a healthier lifestyle you may be interested in reading Gut Well Soon: A Practical Guide to a Healthier Body and a Happier Mind by Catherine Rogers (14). This book breaks down the evidence into simple language and provides practical tips and advice that you can immediately implement to improve your life.
1. Webster K, Fishburn S, Maresh M, Findlay S, Chappell L. Diagnosis and management of hypertension in pregnancy: summary of updated NICE guidance. BMJ [Internet]. 2019 [cited 4 July 2021];:l5119. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31501137/
2. Salt reduction [Internet]. Who.int. 2021 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/salt-reduction
3. WHO | Potassium intake for adults and children [Internet]. Who.int. 2009 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241504829
4. Filippini T, Violi F, D’Amico R, Vinceti M. The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Cardiology [Internet]. 2017 [cited 4 July 2021];230:127-135. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28024910/
5. How to Lower Your High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy [Internet]. Medicover Hospitals. 2021 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.medicoverhospitals.in/articles/how-to-lower-your-high-blood-pressure-during-pregnancy
6. Amarasekera A, Assadi-Khansari B, Liu S, Black M, Dymmott G, Rogers N et al. Vitamin D supplementation lowers thrombospondin-1 levels and blood pressure in healthy adults. PLOS ONE. 2017;12(5):e0174435. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28489857/
7. Farapti F, Fadilla C, Yogiswara N, Adriani M. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on 25(OH)D concentrations and blood pressure in the elderly: a systematic review and meta-analysis. F1000Research [Internet]. 2020 [cited 4 July 2021];9:633. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32968483/
8. Vitamins and minerals – Vitamin D [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
9. Husain K, Ansari R, Ferder L. Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention. World Journal of Cardiology [Internet]. 2014 [cited 4 July 2021];6(5):245. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24891935/
10. Drinking alcohol while pregnant [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/drinking-alcohol-while-pregnant/
11. Ikem E, Halldorsson T, Birgisdóttir B, Rasmussen M, Olsen S, Maslova E. Dietary patterns and the risk of pregnancy‐associated hypertension in the Danish National Birth Cohort: a prospective longitudinal study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology [Internet]. 2019 [cited 4 July 2021];. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30675768/
12. Widmer RJ, Flammer AJ, Lerman LO, Lerman A. The Mediterranean diet, its components, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Med. 2015;128(3):229-238. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25447615/
13. What is a Mediterranean diet? [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 4 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/
14. Rogers C. Gut Well Soon: A Practical Guide to a Healthier Body and a Happier Mind. 2019. Purchase from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gut-Well-Soon-Practical-Healthier/dp/1784521566