High blood pressure means a person’s blood pressure is consistently too high and that their heart has to work harder to pump blood around their body. It is easy to ignore high blood pressure as the condition doesn’t reveal any symptoms initially, but, if left untreated, it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack or stroke. Lifestyle factors strongly influence a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure, with poor diet being a key contributor.
Salty foods are particularly risky, as Blood Pressure UK explained: “Salt works on your kidneys to make your body hold on to more water. This extra stored water raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart and brain.”
As the health body explains, an adult should eat no more than six grams of salt a day, but most people eat much more than this.
The problem often lies in hidden salts, which are found in processed foods such as bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals, and prepared ready meals or takeaways.
While it is important to cut down or avoid processed foods altogether to lower blood pressure, certain dietary choices have been shown to lower a person’s reading.
Pumpkin seed oil can be taken in supplement form and Holland Barrett recommends taking one to three 1000mg soft gel capsules daily, preferably with meals.
Certain snacks have also been linked to lowering a person’s blood pressure, including walnuts, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
In a randomised, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts.
They found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.
Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, and too much cholesterol in a person’s blood can build up on the sides of a person’s arteries, narrowing them and increasing their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
It is therefore important that people swap out saturated fats for unsaturated fats, such as nuts, as unsaturated fat helps to improve blood cholesterol.
In addition, another way to lower blood pressure and keep cholesterol levels in check is to try to eat fish at least two to three times a week, advises Blood Pressure UK.
The health site said: “Oily fish is rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids which may help reduce blood pressure, reduce the tendency of blood to clot, regulate the rhythm of your heart beat and reduce triglyceride levels.”
It is also important to exercise regularly to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, and if a person’s blood pressure reading is already high, exercise can help a person lower it.
As Mayo Clinic explained: “Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
Furthermore, becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of four to nine millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) – that’s as good as some blood pressure medications, notes the health body.
High blood pressure is measured with two numbers – systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood round your body and diastolic blood pressure is the lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.
As Blood Pressure UK explained: “Systolic blood pressure is more important than diastolic blood pressure because it gives the best idea of your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.”