High blood pressure (hypertension) is a very serious matter.
The NHS estimates that more than one in four adults in the UK suffers from the condition though many of them may not even be aware.
There are no obvious symptoms and it is usually only detected by a blood pressure measurement in the course of a medical examination, often for some other reason altogether.
Left untreated, however, hypertension can lead to all sorts of heart problems including heart attacks and strokes.
Blood pressure is measured using two values; the systolic pressure (the higher number) is the force with which your heart pumps blood around the body and the diastolic pressure is the resistance to this force exerted by your blood vessels.
Since they have been historically measured using a “barometer” type scale showing the displacement of mercury in a tube, blood pressure has been calibrated in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
The ideal blood pressure in an adult at rest is considered to be between 90/60 and 120/80. Anything over this benchmark is considered high and therefore potentially dangerous.
The causes of high blood pressure include obesity, smoking, sleep deprivation, excessive drinking, high salt levels, age and lack of exercise.
People of Caribbean or African descent typically have higher blood pressures and others may find that the condition runs in the family. If someone in your immediate family has high blood pressure, particularly a parent or grandparent, it is much more likley that you will experience the same problem.
You can help to prevent hypertension by avoiding as many of the contributing factors as possible; don’t smoke, take regular exercise, eat properly and sleep well.
There are some foods that are particularly good at helping to reduce blood pressure.
Here’s five that can be included in any diet.
You’d probably expect to see salad in any list of healthy foods, but leafy green vegetables like romaine lettuce, rocket, kale, spinach and collard greens are high in potassium. This helps the kidneys to regulate the amount of sodium in the body which in turn reduces blood pressure.
Of course fresh vegetables are best, but frozen can still be good. You should avoid canned vegetables though because most of them actually have added sodium.
Blueberries, raspberries or strawberries all represent a very tasty and easy way to not only enrich your diet with vital nutrients and vitamins, but include flavonoids which studies have found help to prevent hypertension.
Add them to your breakfast cereal or eat them as a healthy snack or dessert to start creating a more healthy diet.
Perhaps an unexpected entry on a healthy eating list and yet potatoes are packed with magnesium and potassium, both of which are proven to lower blood pressure. They are also high in fibre which can often be a missing element in some ‘healthy’ diets.
The trick is in how you eat them. A baked potato using plain yoghurt or salsa as a flavouring instead of butter can provide a healthy and filling option for a main meal. No chips though.
Some people love beetroot, for others it is a leap too far for the taste buds but research has shown that test subjects suffering from high blood pressure showed a significant and significant improvement after drinking beetroot juice.
It’s the nitrates in the beetroot that is particularly beneficial for blood pressure. At their most effective when juiced but still a good option if roasted and added to stir-fries and stews.
Bananas are, chemically speaking, a stick of potassium in a handy carry case. They provide a simple and incredibly efficient way to take potassium into the body which is a very effective way to reduce blood pressure.
Best of all, you can add slices of banana to cereals or desserts or simply carry one with you to provide a healthy snack during the day.
There are, of course, many other alternatives but these five are arguably the easiest and most flexible food ingredients that can be added in several ways to most diets.
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