Blood pressure and Diet – Healthy Eating
High blood pressure is a serious condition – it’s the major risk factor for stroke and heart attack – but there are so many ways to keep your blood pressure numbers to a healthy level, particularly through eating well and staying active.
Although many people with high blood pressure will need to take medication, eating healthily and reducing salt intake in particular can help medicines to work better, and can even reduce the amount of medicines needed.
Even people with healthy blood pressure numbers can make proactive choices – blood pressure tends to increase with age, so this will stand you in good stead for the future.
Eat your way to good blood pressure health:
What you eat and drink can play a major role in keeping your blood pressure healthy. In general, the healthier your diet is, the lower your blood pressure will be.
Salt is a key offender in raising blood pressure and most of us eat far too much of it – we should be eating less than 6g a day, but the majority of us are eating around 9g. All this extra salt makes our bodies hold onto excess water, which then raises blood pressure.
It’s not too hard to cut down on the white stuff – just try to shake less at the table and when cooking, and try to boost flavours with herbs and spices or seasonings like chilli, ginger or lemon juice instead.
But it’s also important to remember that around 80 per cent of the salt in our diets comes from manufactured foods, so beware the hidden salt in bread, breakfast cereals, and cheeses.
Healthy Eating Lowers Blood Pressure
- Cutting down on salt and eating no more than 6g a day could lower blood pressure by 2-8mmHg.
Getting your five a day or fruit and vegetables is also excellent for your blood pressure health. You’ll not only be getting essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, but fruit and veg also contain potassium, which can help to balance out the negative effects of salt.
Some fruits and vegetables – such as bananas, asparagus or spinach – are particularly rich in potassium, but eating the same foods all the time can be a bit dull, and different foods have different nutrients, so we’d recommend getting a good variety.
- Eating five, or ideally seven to nine, portions of fruit and vegetables a day can lower blood pressure by 7mmHg or more.
“Eating healthily and being active will also help you to keep to a healthy weight, which is good news for your blood pressure. And if you’re overweight a 10kg weight loss (i.e 22lbs) could help to lower your blood pressure by 5-10mmHg.”
A guide to blood pressure levels: Measure how healthy eating helps lower blood pressure.
One of the most common blood pressure questions is “what do the numbers mean?”
Less than 120/80mmHg – blood pressure is at the ‘optimal’ level so follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it that way
121/81 – 129/84mmHg – blood pressure is ‘average’ and you would benefit from lowering it
130/85 – 139/89mmHg – blood pressure is on the ‘high side of normal’ and should be lowered
140/90mmHg or above – if readings are consistently at or above this level you have high blood pressure, take action now to lower it