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5 Reasons Why Blood Pressure Is Rising in Millennials, and How You Can Take Control

Natalie Stein
April 28, 2020
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Millennials have become a distinctive generation in many ways, many of them good. Unfortunately, millennials appear to have some health concerns. For example, they are more likely to have hypertension, or high blood pressure, than previous generations did at their age. [1]

The good news is that the choices you make each day can affect your blood pressure, and what you eat is especially important. These are some mistakes that the average millennial is making,[2,3] and how you can avoid them.

1.Sodium


The average millennial male consumes about 4,400 mg sodium per day, or nearly three times the optimal recommended amount of 1,500 mg. An American Heart Association (AHA) Task Force noted that reducing sodium by 1,000 mg/day can lead to a decrease in SBP of 5 mm Hg [4].

Millennials eat more prepared foods than previous generations, and these are often high in sodium. Examples include canned soup, deli salads and meats, pizza, and frozen entrees.

What to Do About It:

Putting healthy ingredients together instead of buying the finished product can lead to meals with less sodium. You do not need to be a gourmet chef to make simple and great-tasting alternatives such as the following.

  • Pizza with tomato sauce and vegetables on whole-grain pita.
  • Soup with low-sodium broth, fresh or frozen vegetables, beans, chicken or fish, and a whole grain such as barley, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Fried rice with brown rice, olive oil, vegetables, and egg whites.
  • Whole-grain pasta with diced tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and chicken.
  • Fresh chicken instead of processed deli meat.

You can also do something that millennials are already good at: eating more fruits and vegetables. They are naturally low in sodium and they are high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure.

2. Fast Food


While the average American gets 32% of calories away from home, the average millennial man gets over 40% of calories away from home. Those who eat out more often have a higher intake of calories as well as sodium, sugar, and fat. That is a recipe for weight gain and increased blood pressure.

What to Do About It:

Cooking for yourself instead of eating out gives you the chance to serve smaller portions and to choose which ingredients go into your food, so you can use less salt, sugar, and fat. Otherwise, going out to eat can be healthier if you eat smaller portions (consider taking home half your meal and eating it tomorrow). Other tricks are to get sauces and dressings on the side, drink water, and avoid fried chicken, French fries, and other fried foods.

3. Snack Choices


Millennials are spot-on when it comes to percent of calories from snacks, since both millennials and older adults get a bit over 20% of calories from snacks. The trouble may come from the types of snacks chosen. Millennials’ snacks tend to be higher in carbohydrates and sugar, and lower in fiber and protein, than their overall diet.

What to Do About It:

Snacks that deliver more protein and fiber, and less sugar, can be more filling and better for blood pressure. Instead of opening a bag of chips or cookies, any of these snacks can be just as quick and tasty, and more nutritious. Just prepare or pre-portion them ahead of time so you can eat them as soon as you are hungry.

  • String cheese.
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Raw vegetables with peanut butter, hummus, or Greek yogurt.
  • Almonds.
  • Regular or plain instant oatmeal.

Adding in some low-fat dairy products at snack time can help fill in another millennial gap – dairy products. These are linked to lower blood pressure.

4. Sugar


High sugar consumption can lead to higher blood pressure, weight gain, and higher risk for heart disease. Millennials tend to purchase more sweets, such as candy, as well as sweet snacks, such as cookies. Other sources can include syrup in coffee beverages. 

What to Do About It:

Water and decaffeinated coffee and tea are naturally sugar-free beverages. As an alternative to desserts and sweet snacks, fresh fruit has no added sugars.

5. Whole Grains


Millennials may be overdoing it on pasta, as evidenced by a higher consumption of noodles, macaroni and cheese, chow mein noodles, and ramens, for example. However, they are eating fewer overall grains than other generations. That may be unfortunate because whole grains are good for blood pressure, as well as weight and heart health.

What to Do About It:

Whole-grain pasta is an effortless swap for white pasta. Unsweetened breakfast cereals, such as plain Cheerios and shredded wheat, are easy ways to get more whole grains. If you do not feel like washing a bowl after eating cereal and milk, you can eat your cereal in plain yogurt or cottage cheese. Choosing brown rice and whole-grain bread when eating out can get you more whole grains, and air-popped popcorn is an easy whole-grain snack. Lark can remind you to consider whole-grain choices in your daily life.

Lark for Hypertension can help you lower blood pressure through nutrition and other healthy choices. The program is easy to use, effective, and totally discrete. You can access your health coach anytime, through your smartphone, to keep your blood pressure down in a fun and rewarding program.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health