applesThe U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is now advising that people have their blood pressure checked once a year if they are at least 40 years old, are overweight, are African-American, or have blood pressure that usually measures in the “high normal” range. While this is good advice, the task force could help even more people by encouraging them to go vegan.

In other words, think outside the box.

An estimated 67 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure—and about 47 percent of those affected are taking medication to control their blood pressure. Many people with high blood pressure—or hypertension, as it’s also called—aren’t even aware that they have it. That’s why hypertension is known as “the silent killer.” People with high blood pressure are more vulnerable to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.

Fortunately, people can lower their blood pressure just by eating healthy vegan foods rather than meat, eggs, and dairy products. When researchers from Japan and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., analyzed the data from 39 studies, they found that people who eat plant-based foods have significantly lower blood pressure than their meat-eating counterparts. This means that they’re also less likely to suffer from all the other serious health problems that can accompany hypertension.

Plant-based foods are generally low in saturated fat, which is linked to viscous, or thick, blood and high blood pressure. Since people who eat animal fat have thicker blood, the heart has to push harder just to keep the blood flowing. When you eat plant-based foods, which are rich in potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients, your blood viscosity decreases—and your blood pressure drops.

Why take blood pressure pills and risk bypass surgery when you can eat great-tasting vegan foods and be healthy? Choose veggie burgers rather than hamburgers, soy sausage over pork sausage, and curried chickpeas instead of chicken.