Changes in diet should be the first strategy for anyone with high blood pressure, but most people will need to make drastic changes in their eating habits to succeed. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have shown why the DASH diet lowers high blood pressure to normal in more than 80 percent of people with high blood pressure. On the DASH diet you eat lots of leafy green vegetables that are rich sources of nitrites, common salts that your bloodstream, can be converted to nitric oxide which opens blood vessels.
This means that nitrites could be a new treatment for high blood pressure, heart attacks, sickle cell disease, and blocked arteries leading the heart, brain and legs. Hemoglobin is the red pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen in your bloodstream. When hemoglobin releases oxygen, it converts nitrites to nitric oxide, to widen blood vessels. Blood nitrite levels are low in patients with high blood pressure.
However, at high concentrations nitrites are toxic, so you must take limited amounts. Leafy greens are rich sources of safe amounts of nitrites. The nitrites go into the bloodstream, where exposure to oxygen converts nitrites to nitrous oxide which dilates arteries and lowers high blood pressure. Hypertensives should also eat lots of other plants for the same reason and cut back on meat and chicken, that are rich sources of sodium that can raise high blood pressure.
The modified DASH diet that I recommend will also lower cholesterol and help you lose excess weight, and it is usually the most effective diet for preventing or controlling diabetes. Intermittent Fasting also helps to lower blood pressure.
Nature Medicine, December, 2003