Blood pressure: How drinking milk can reduce blood pressure Milk is known to help us develop strong bones and good teeth, but did you know that drinking it can also prevent hypertension? Here's how this nutritious beverage can help keep your blood pressure in check. By Cara Rosenbloom, RD Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs Many people know there’s a link between salt and high blood pressure, and so they cut back on sodium. But did you know there are foods and beverages you should eat to stave off hypertension? Milk is one of them. Too much pressure Blood pressure can rise and fall during the day, but when it stays high over time, it is diagnosed as hypertension. This is a condition in which blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than what is considered normal, requiring the heart to work too hard. If it’s not brought under control, hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Since hypertension often has no symptoms, it’s vital to have your blood pressure checked regularly. With proper management, you can cut your risk of stroke by 40 percent and your risk of heart attack by 25 percent. Just add milk In a review of studies involving 45,000 adults, Monash University in Australia examined the intake of dairy products and their effect on blood pressure. The results showed that people who consumed more low-fat milk had less risk of hypertension than those who consumed fewer milk products. But two-thirds of Canadians don’t consume the recommended two to three servings of milk products per day, and therefore miss out on milk’s heart-protective benefits. According to Sandra Bourdeau, a registered dietitian and program manager of nutrition at Dairy Farmers of Canada, individuals over age 50 consume even fewer milk products than the rest of the population. “Approximately 80 percent of women and 75 percent of men age 50 and over are not consuming the required two servings of milk products per day, and the recommendation for this age group has now increased to three servings a day,” says Bourdeau. A better diet can help Hypertension Canada recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to reduce blood pressure. One of the key recommendations in the DASH diet is to include two to three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products each day. One serving is equal to one cup of milk, buttermilk or yogurt, or 43 grams of low-fat cheese. Milk products contain key blood pressure–lowering nutrients, including calcium, potassium and magnesium. “Milk products also contain a special type of proteins, called bioactive peptides, which have been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure control,” says Bourdeau. But keep in mind that the DASH diet stresses low-fat and fat-free milk products, so indulging in that ice cream sundae won’t help you lower your blood pressure level. A DASH of good nutrition Combine the following heart-healthy foods with milk products to help lower your blood pressure level. • Vegetables and fruits • Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice and oats • Unsalted nuts • Legumes such as split peas, lentils and kidney beans • Fish This story was originally titled "Drink Away Your Stress" in the November 2012 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!