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Foods that raise, lower blood pressure; the impact of screen time

September 16, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.

Q: My doctor says that I need to change my diet to help control my high blood pressure, but I am not sure what that means. What foods should I avoid? -- Gary T., Omaha, Nebraska

A: You can do a lot to lower your blood pressure by making smart lifestyle choices. Opting for foods that are heart-friendly and dodging those loaded with excess salt and saturated fats and avoiding alcohol is a smart first step. (Physical activity and stress control are also wise moves.)

Excess salt is hidden in frozen meals, prepared sauces and soups, chips, processed meats, and many condiments. The Cleveland Clinic says the least healthy frozen meals have more than 700 grams of sodium and over 5 grams of saturated fat. And a cup of prepared tomato sauce can have almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium. The American Heart Association says you should aim for 1,500 milligrams daily if you have high blood pressure.

You also want to be careful about restaurant foods -- especially fried and breaded meats, fish and vegetables. They can be loaded with salt. You can ask for your meal to be made without salt (most chefs will accommodate you) and opt for foods that are grilled, broiled, steamed, poached or braised in a salt-free liquid.

Saturated fat can also contribute to stiffened and clogged arteries that increase your blood pressure. By eliminating all red and processed meats and high-fat dairy you can dramatically reduce your saturated fat intake.

But getting healthy isn't just about giving up foods you're used to eating -- it's about adding great tasting, nutritious, life-enhancing foods to your menu. That means 100% whole-grains and high-fiber foods, fresh fruits and vegetables (both high in heart-healthy potassium), healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and anchovies, and extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil. To discover a world of low-sodium, low- or no saturated fat foods, check out my "What to Eat When Cookbook" and explore then recipes at

Q: As I was taking my 1-year-old daughter out for a walk in the stroller, a woman scolded me for letting her play with my phone. She said I am damaging my child's brain. Does it do any harm? -- Sonia K., Evanston, Illinois

A: Children's developing brains are so easily influenced by the environment and their interactions with people. There's even a new study in JAMA Network Open that found that having a pregnant woman eat a Mediterranean diet improves cognition and social and emotional development and practicing mindfulness improves social and emotional development, but not cognition, when her child is a 2-year-old.

Newborns' and infants' brains are also influenced by what they're exposed to -- and screen time has a significant impact. When researchers looked at screen-viewing habits of 1-year-olds and their developmental delays in communication and gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal and social skills at ages 2 to 4, they found that the more screen time infants spent, the more handicapped they were in development of these essential abilities. The study in JAMA Pediatrics also found that screen time delayed development in problem-solving and communications up to age 4. (They didn't look beyond that.)

If you want to help your child's brain develop as an infant, toddler and youngster, there are three powerful tools at your disposal: feeding your child a healthy diet, reading to and with your child, and having the child participate in sports. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports shows that those activities improve reasoning skills, while screen time reduces them.

Nurturing the healthy development of future generations is one of my main goals, along with keeping you healthy. To do that we have to master the tools we invent, not let them master us. That's exactly what we do at, where evaluation of all evidence guides you toward the healthiest, happiest way to shape your life and the life of your loved ones.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. Check out his latest, "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow," and find out more at Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Mike at [email protected].

King Features Syndicate

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