Blood pressure is greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. An unhealthy lifestyle will raise it over time. Even if your blood pressure is not high, the more you can do to reduce it or keep it down, the lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle you might avoid or delay the need for medication
Cutting down on salt helps greatly in reducing blood pressure. There is a very strong link as people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of hypertension while the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anywhere else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. Salt is hidden in processed foods like bread, cereals and ready meals so it’s important to read labels, eat as much fresh food as possible and try not to add salt, instead flavour with herbs and spices.
Salt is made up of sodium chloride, one molecule sodium and one molecule chloride. In tiny amounts these are essential for health and growth.
The max amount of sodium should be 2,000 mg per day (2gms), this is the equivalent to 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of salt. Ideally aim for 1,500 mg (1.5gms) or 2/3 teaspoon salt.
More fruit and veg
Eating a range of fruit and vegetables helps to lower blood pressure. Adults should aim for a minimum of five servings per day. A portion is 80 grams or roughly the size of your fist. Fresh are best but frozen, dried or tinned are fine but watch out for added salt, sugar or fat.
Blood pressure is elevated by drinking too much alcohol. Generally more than one drink per day for women and men over 65, or more than two drinks for men aged 65 or younger can raise blood pressure. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can raise it by several points and can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Being moderately active for at least 30 minutes per day five times per week can lower blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. This amount of exercise can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). However if you stop exercising it can quickly rise again. The best types of exercise include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing or strength training.
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. Being overweight can also cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnoea), which further raises your blood pressure. A healthy waist measurement is important as weight around this area contributes to hypertension, men are at risk if the waist is more than 40”/102cm and women at risk if the waist is more than 35”/89 centimetres.
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