If you’ve got high blood pressure or want to prevent it, you may want to stock up on celery. Why?Celery contains phthalides, chemicals that dilate the blood vessels and act as a diuretic, actions found in certain blood pressure-lowering drugs.

Some risks of high blood pressure are widely known (such as increased risk for heart attack and stroke). But high blood pressure also makes you more likely to develop dementia, kidney disease, eye disease, sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.

What to do: For a consistent blood pressure-lowering effect, eat four medium-sized celery stalks per day. One easy way is to cut them into snack-sized pieces to munch on throughout the day—at midmorning, midafternoon and bedtime. (Talk to your doctor, though, if you have sun sensitivity—celery can increase skin reactions.)

Even better: Liven up your celery with other blood pressure-lowering foods—for example, hummus or nut butter (such as almond). People who eat these foods have lower blood pressure—possibly due to the foods’ fiber and protein content.

Important: Four stalks of celery a day won’t completely control high blood pressure. Use this remedy as part of an overall plan that includes increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits…exercising regularly…controlling your weight…reducing stress…and taking blood pressure medication, if necessary. Also: Consult a physician familiar with natural therapies, if possible. Or talk with your regular doctor before you try this remedy—celery can interact with some medications.