8 Foods to Avoid With High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Close-up of Caucasian woman getting blood pressure check
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the first signs of heart disease. Left untreated, hypertension can damage your arteries and lead to serious complications like heart attack. If your blood pressure remains high over a sustained period of time, your doctor might prescribe medication to lower it. But even if you take blood pressure medication, you also should work on reducing hypertension by avoiding specific types of foods. These are the foods to avoid with high blood pressure to keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • 1
    salt and pepper on table

    Salt tops the list of foods to avoid with hypertension. Sodium increases the amount of fluid in your blood, which raises your blood pressure. You should not add any type of salt to your food if you have high blood pressure. Today you can buy a wide variety of gourmet salts—like pink Himalayan salt—that look more appealing than ordinary table salt. But no added salt can be considered healthy for a person with high blood pressure. Instead, try seasoning your food with flavorful, salt-free herbs and spices. Food may taste bland when you first put down the salt shaker, but your palate will adapt quickly.

  • 2
    steaming hot meat pizza on black background

    The amount of salt in pizza is astounding. One medium-sized pepperoni pizza may contain nearly 3,500 milligrams of sodium—more than double the American Heart Association’s recommended allowance of 1,500 milligrams per day. To get your pizza fix, don’t order delivery. Instead, make your own heart-healthy pizza using flatbread and one serving each of canned pizza sauce, part-skim mozzarella and turkey pepperoni. Not only will your homemade pizza contain roughly half the sodium of a commercially prepared one, but you can eat the whole thing guilt-free.

  • 3
    Potato Chips, Pretzels and Other Salty Snacks
    Chips and Salsa

    High on the list of high blood pressure foods to avoid lies the salty snacks group. Not only does the high sodium level of these snacks increase hypertension, but their fattiness contributes to weight gain and poor heart health. When you must appease that craving for a crisp, salty snack, try eating small portions of low-sodium varieties instead. You also can substitute small servings of unsalted or lightly salted nuts, which provide more nutrition than chips. For best heart health, weigh or measure your portions to avoid eating too many of these treats.

  • 4
    Bologna, Salami and Other Lunch Meats
    cold cut sandwich isolated on white background

    Processed meats not only contain excessive amounts of sodium, but they’re usually very fatty and contribute to poor overall health. Before you buy any type of prepared meat—whether prepackaged or from your local deli—do a little research. Read the label on packaged lunch meats to view the sodium information. Also, look up the nutrition information for the brand of deli meat your local counter slices so you can make appropriate choices before you build that next pastrami sandwich. Some brands sell low sodium varieties.

  • 5
    Regular Canned Vegetables, including Beans
    high angle view of canned vegetables, beans and legumes

    A heart-healthy diet should include plenty of fresh vegetables and fiber—such as the type found in beans. Frozen is ok too, but watch for added salt and butter and pick the plain vegetable packs. If you don’t have access to fresh vegetables (or you don’t have time to prepare them), you may reach for the canned versions instead. Canned vegetables and beans can be a good choice for helping lower high blood pressure if you choose low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties. As an alternative, you can drain and rinse regular canned vegetables and beans to remove much of the added sodium. Then season with herbs and enjoy!

  • 6

    Anyone with hypertension would do well to monitor their sugar intake. Studies of people with diabetes show some correlation between excessive sugar consumption and increased blood pressure. Even if you don’t have diabetes, avoiding added sugar in your diet is a smart decision. To start, avoid soft drinks and canned fruit in syrup. Read labels to learn the total sugars contained in a packaged product. Aim to keep your sugar consumption at a minimum, and you may see your blood pressure numbers fall.

  • 7
    close up of unrecognizable senior man holding glass of red wine

    Is alcohol consumption bad for your health? Research teams are still settling this question. Currently, the American Heart Association recommends people with hypertension avoid excessive alcohol consumption—and that includes red wine. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to two drinks per day or fewer. Remember that alcohol of any kind also might interact with heart medications you take, so talk with your doctor or pharmacist before you hoist that next pint of beer.

  • 8
    Caffeine and Energy Drinks
    closeup of energy drink in can

    Caffeine from any source causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can raise blood pressure. Coffee, energy drinks, sodas, teas—the list of caffeine-containing beverages is long. Before you consume any beverages that aren’t 100% water, read the label to review the caffeine information. Even sugar-free sodas can still contain caffeine, so choose carefully. Energy drinks without caffeine may not be a good choice, either, since some of them are loaded with sugar. To improve your energy levels, try exercising regularly instead. It’s better for your overall heart health too.

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  1. High Blood Pressure. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/highbloodpressure.html
  2. How to Prevent High Blood Pressure. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventhighbloodpressure.html
  3. DASH Eating Plan. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/dasheatingplan.html
  4. Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/new_dash.pdf
  5. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations
  6. Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/limiting-alcohol-to-manage-high-blood-pressure
  7. High Blood Pressure: Why Excess Sugar in the Diet may be the Culprit. Diabetes.co.uk. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-excess-sugar-diet-may-culprit/

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.