Consuming too little calcium may put you at greater risk for hypertension, according to research at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.
The university study of federal health statistics found the most significant nutritional difference between hypertensives and people with normal blood pressure was their calcium intake.
People with low calcium intakes tend to have higher blood pressure.
"Although excesses of sodium are most often linked with hypertension, we've found that increasing calcium intakes in some people can also be effective in reducing blood pressure," Cynthia Morris of the Oregon research team says.
Dairy Foods Recommended
Dietitians advise adults to eat two or three daily servings of dairy foods to provide the recommended 800 milligrams of calcium.
Maintaining calcium intake is especially important for people on low-sodium diets, Morris points out. Hypertensives often avoid all dairy foods, which supply 75% of the calcium in the American diet.
If you are concerned about moderating salt intake, choose fluid milk, yogurt and low-sodium cheeses such as Swiss or ricotta, Morris suggests. Dark green, leafy vegetables, canned salmon and tofu also supply calcium and add little salt to the diet.
There are many factors that contribute to hypertension, which affects an estimated 20% of all Americans. Morris recommends these preventive measures to help lower the risk for hypertension:
--Maintain ideal body weight.
--Eat a balanced diet including calcium-rich foods from the milk group as well as a variety of meats, fruits and vegetables and whole grains for other essential nutrients.
--Watch salt intake.
--Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.