High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition. It’s when the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems.
When this happens, the arteries become too constricted and cannot relax when the heart pumps the blood through. When your arteries become narrower you tend to age faster as the oxygen supply to your tissues is reduced. Your heart then works harder to pump blood to the rest of your body.
When everything is working as it should, every time your heart beats, it is sending nutrient rich blood and oxygen around your body via your arteries nourishing each of your cells.
The problem is there are no warning signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, so it’s a good idea to get your blood pressure checked regularly. You can do this at your GP, some pharmacies or you can also buy a machine to check it at home.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). It is recorded with 2 numbers. The first number of your reading which is the higher one, is known as the systolic pressure which is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The second number which is the lower number, is known as the diastolic pressure, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. A healthy blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, 140/90 is raised, but considered acceptable. Anything over that is high.
High Blood pressure is very common with around a third of adults in the UK having it. Before the age of 55, men have a greater chance of having high blood pressure, it’s more common in women after menopause. If untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.
Things that can cause high blood pressure and foods to avoid
• Stop Smoking! There are so many reasons to stop and this is one of them. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase during smoking and nicotine thicken the heart wall, making your heart beat faster.
• Being overweight or obese. Your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases, putting more pressure on your heart.
• Lack of physical activity.
• Too much salt in the diet.
• Consuming over two drinks of alcohol per day.
• Older age.
• Genetics, high blood pressure can run in a family.
Food to avoid
Keep down your weight by reducing refined carbohydrates like sweets, pastries, white bread, pasta, and biscuits.
Cut out all processed foods that contain zero nutritional value. By processed I mean anything with over five ingredients – it’s time to read those labels!
Avoid all highly refined hydrogenated fats and oils found in margarines, pastries, cakes, biscuits and mass produced cooking oils.
Reduce your sodium based salt intake. Too much sodium from the diet will cause the kidneys to keep more water, increasing blood volume, resulting in higher blood pressure.
Reduce stimulants like too much alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks.
Look at your stress levels
It’s normal for your blood pressure to increase for a short time if you’re feeling stressed. When you’re stressed, your body releases adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. Adrenaline makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise as a way of helping your body cope with the situation.
Once stress has passed, your blood pressure should go back to normal. The problem is when you are experiencing prolonged stress. When this happens you are more likely to turn to unhealthy habits that can add to an increase in blood pressure. For instance, smoking, eating unhealthy comfort food, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, or not being active.
So what can you do about it?
Luckily, there are ways of reducing your chances of getting high blood pressure.
If you are overweight, then weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for lowering it. Losing even a small amount of weight can help.
Here are some foods to include in your diet
Pomegranate is great for preventing arteries becoming clogged up. Also, include more strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
Eat more fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lentils, chickpeas. Plant foods contain antioxidants that fight oxidative damage. Aim to have a rainbow of colours on your plate at every meal.
Eat more whole grains, onions, ginger and broccoli which are anti bacteria and anti viral.
Make sure you include plenty of Omega 3 in your diet, it’s good for circulation and brain function. Eat fish like sardines, wild salmon and mackerel.
Magnesium is known to lower blood pressure. Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, avocados, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains. You can buy a magnesium supplement or soak in an Epsom salt bath, which is also good way of destressing.
Use unrefined organic oils like cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil in your salad dressing.
Limit processed table salt and opt instead for nori flakes or kelp flakes. These are rich in minerals and are available in health stores.
Organic Herb Seasoning Salt by Bioforce is also very good. It is made from dried celery, organic sea salt, kelp, garlic, basil, leeks, and parsley.
Movement & Exercise
Regular exercise is excellent for circulation, blood flow and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise can help lower your blood pressure. These types of exercise include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing.
Try to do your 10,000 steps a day and ensure you walk briskly to raise your heart beat for at least 10 minutes.
Yoga and breathing can lower stress, as can a walk in nature and meditation.
The key to consistency is to choose something that you enjoy and do it regularly.
I hope you have found this blog useful. if you need some 1-2-1 help on lowering your blood pressure, then get in touch – I would be happy to help.