If you want to lower your blood pressure, eat more melons, like cantaloupe and watermelon, say nutrition experts at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTS) Medical Center at Dallas. Melons are high in potassium, a mineral that is crucial to maintaining normal kidney and heart function. Because potassium has such a significant impact on blood pressure, too little of it can lead to sodium (salt) retention, which can cause higher blood pressure.

To maintain a healthy diet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults get 4,044 milligrams of potassium from food and beverages each day. According to assistant professor of UTS and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association Lona Sandon, "Melons like cantaloupe and watermelon are particularly high in potassium." For example, a quarter of a cantaloupe contains between 800 and 900 milligrams of potassium, nearly 20 percent of the recommended daily value. Two cups of watermelon contain nearly 10 percent of the daily-recommended value.

But melons aren't the only high-potassium foods. Dried apricots, avocados, figs, kiwi, oranges, raisins, dates, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, grapefruit, salmon, bananas, and almonds are also good sources of the mineral.

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, and the high force of the blood flow can damage arteries and organs like the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes. The condition is prevalent among Americans, affecting more than 65 million adults. Normal blood pressure for adults is less than 120/80 mmHg. The more your blood pressure rises above normal, even slightly above normal, the greater your risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.

Diet and exercise are key to controlling high blood pressure. Researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found that eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat can reduce high blood pressure in just two weeks. Key foods to incorporate into your diet include fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.

Other steps you can take to control high blood pressure include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation: just one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men
  • If you do have high blood pressure and take medication, be sure to take it as prescribed