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High Blood Pressure and Cheese

by
author image Solomon Branch
Solomon Branch specializes in nutrition, health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and integrative medicine. He has a B.A. in English from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine.
High Blood Pressure and Cheese
Assorted cheeses. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Chock-full of healthy proteins and calcium, cheese can be part of a balanced diet, if eaten in moderation. For those with high blood pressure, however, eating cheese can be problematic. The fat content of cheese can potentially contribute to high blood pressure, but the main concern is the high sodium content found in many cheeses. Limiting the amount of cheese you eat, as well as choosing low-sodium cheeses, might help reduce the risk of exacerbating high blood pressure, but it's best to consult your doctor before changing your diet.

High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure and Cheese
Testing blood pressure. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force that your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it is pumped through your body by your heart. When your blood pressure is too high -- medically referred to as hypertension -- it can cause damage because it stresses your arteries as well as various organs such as your heart and kidneys. Over time, this can lead to a variety of potentially fatal maladies, including stroke, kidney disease and heart attack or heart failure. The exact cause of high blood pressure is often unknown, but certain factors, such as high levels of sodium in your blood, can exacerbate it.

Cheese and Sodium

High Blood Pressure and Cheese
Cheese can be salty. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, although many people use the terms "sodium" and "salt" interchangeably. Many cheeses are high in salt and consequently sodium, which can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure. Increased levels of sodium in your blood means increased levels of fluid in your blood vessels, and this ultimately increases your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams. A teaspoon of salt contains about 2,400 milligrams of sodium.

Cheese Choices

High Blood Pressure and Cheese
Swiss cheese. Photo Credit motorolka/iStock/Getty Images

The amount of sodium in cheeses can vary depending on the process used to make them, but some cheeses typically contain more sodium than others. For example, 1 ounce of processed American cheese -- about one slice -- contains 406 milligrams of sodium, which is almost one-third of the AHA's recommended daily amount. One the other end of the scale, 1 ounce of Swiss cheese contains about 74 milligrams of sodium, and 1 ounce of Gruyere contains about 95 milligrams of sodium. Mozzarella, with 118 milligrams of sodium an ounce, and cottage cheese, with 107 milligrams, are also typically lower in sodium than most cheeses.

Overall Recommendations

High Blood Pressure and Cheese
Bananas are potassium rich foods. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Consuming a moderate amount of cheese as part of your diet might help prevent problems if you have high blood pressure, but keeping track of your overall sodium intake is important, as it can be easy to go over the recommended 1,500 milligram a day limit. Reading labels carefully on cheeses to check for sodium content can be helpful, but a report published in the March 2011 "Journal of Dairy Science" reported that manufacturers of the most commonly consumed cheeses in the United States tended to be conservative with their reporting of sodium on labels, so choosing a sodium-free cheese may be your best bet. Eating potassium-rich foods, such as potatoes, greens and bananas, can help as well, as potassium helps flush sodium from the body. Consult a qualified health practitioner, such as a registered dietitian, for advice on the best diet for your needs.

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