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A few years ago my mother had a stroke, and I became fascinated with naturally improving cardiovascular health. I care for my mom at my family’s home where we unceasingly snack on almonds and drink tea.

Once you start getting older, it’s important to stay away from certain foods. Foods that increase blood pressure are especially dangerous. Increased blood pressure can cause heart disease, a heart attack, or even a stroke. There are several factors that can cause your blood pressure increase – thus increasing your risk of a fatal cardiovascular incident – such as, smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress. Unfortunately, high blood pressure can also be hereditary.

No matter the cause of high blood pressure, however, sticking to a healthy, low-salt diet will help lower blood pressure and therefore decrease your risk of heart problems and stroke. It’s much better to make a positive change in lifestyle rather than start taking medication. Here’s what you should include in your diet:

Flavorful flavonoids

Flavonoids are found in a large variety of plants. Remarkably, flavonoids help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure making them a great addition to any diet. The foods that have flavonoids include: onions, kale, green beans, celery, broccoli, and dark chocolate (yum!). There are also flavonoids found in white and green tea, so have a chocolate and tea party!

There is a compound in flavonoids called flavones that can help reduce the risk of a stroke in particular. The fruits and vegetables with the most flavones come from citrus fruit and fruit juice. Fruit smoothies, anyone?

Within flavonoids is another compound called anthocyanin. This compound also helps prevent cardiovascular disease and decreases the rate of cognitive decline that comes with aging. This compound can be found most abundantly in darkly-pigmented fruits, such as: blackberries, blueberries, plums, and strawberries.

First class fiber

The intake of high-fiber foods has been proven to reduce the risk of stroke by 7% per 7 grams added to a daily fiber intake. The best kind of fiber is found in beans, nuts, or any other food with water-soluble fiber. Other fibers will still help (like cereal or insoluble fibers), but not as much.

Most people eat around 13-17 grams of fiber per day. To get to the recommended amount of fiber, increase that number up to 21-25 grams for women or 30-38 grams for men. Here’s an easy way to start increasing your fiber intake: switch from white bread to whole wheat and get whole wheat noodles when you can. Pistachios, almonds, carrots, bran, barley, and brown rice are also great sources of fiber. Why not add these into your daily meal plans and make your heart happier?

Plentiful Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that helps control blood pressure and improves heart function. According to this study, an increase in potassium intake decreases the risk of a stroke by 24%. That is a huge deal! Moreover, potassium is important for maintaining normal cell function and can increase the overall health of your cardiovascular system.

Many fruits and vegetables are a good source of potassium (they also have flavonoids, hitting two birds with one stone). Foods that are labeled as organic will generally have more potassium than others. Fertilizers and pesticides reduce the amount of potassium in plants. Add these foods to your diet to increase your potassium intake: almonds, cantaloupe, dates, figs, bananas, kiwi, plums, raisins, and avocados.

Mouthwatering Magnesium

Magnesium is another great mineral that can help protect your cardiovascular system and prevent strokes. A study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that for every 100 milligrams of magnesium added to a diet per day, the risk of stroke decreased by a staggering 8%.

Here are some magnesium rich foods: leafy vegetables, beans, rice, nuts, and whole-grain products (fiber!). An added 100 milligrams to your daily diet isn’t as scary as it sounds. It would really only take an ounce of nuts, a cup of beans or rice, or 3 cups of spinach. Easy peasy!

As you can see, it’s easy to add these vitamins and minerals to your diet to help out your cardiovascular system, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your risk of stroke. The best part? They all come from the earth.

Be wary of medications at odds with healing

High blood pressure medication (described as blood thinners) can be harmful. Maintaining your blood pressure naturally is always better than waiting until drugs are needed. Blood thinners such as Warfarin, Coumadin and Pradaxa all can cause internal bleeding. Unlike the others though, the bleeding caused by Pradaxa cannot be stopped, making the risks so much higher.

Remember, you can prevent strokes and other health complications by eating right, abandoning harmful habits, and making an effort to exercise. Your health and happiness are on the line, so take care of your body the way nature intended.

(This article by Madeline Ferdinand originally appeared on the CareGiver Partnership blog.)

About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.