How can I reduce my blood pressure?
8th August 2019
Hypertension is a chronic condition and if untreated, can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, ischaemic heart disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction as well as renal impairment, chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline and premature death.
Treatment for hypertension is usually lifelong, as the cause of essential hypertension is basically unknown.
Here at UK Meds, we care about our patients and put patient care first. Basic changes to your diet can help reduce the health risks that having high blood pressure can cause. The older we get, the risks of developing high blood pressure increases because our blood vessels don’t stretch as well anymore. There is nothing we can do to stop our bodies ageing but there are plenty of other lifestyle changes we can make, including changing our diet, that can help to control our blood pressure.
Cut down on salt
Research has shown that people who have a lot of salt in their diet are more likely to have high blood pressure. Most people eat far more salt than they need so we should all be aiming to reduce the amount of salt (or sodium chloride) we eat. Adults should have no more than six grams of salt a day – that’s about one teaspoon. It is the sodium in salt that contributes to high blood pressure and it is present in all types of salt including sea salt, flakes, crystals and flavoured salt.
There are a number of simple ways you can cut your salt intake:
- If you add salt to food once it’s been served, remove the saltshaker from the table.
- Once you have got used to this, try reducing the salt you add when cooking and make more use of herbs and spices.
- There is no need to add salt if you are using a stock cube as they contain lots of salt. Also, try using a reduced salt stock cube.
- Some people like to use a salt substitute, made from potassium chloride. However, as your food will still taste salty, it won’t help you get used to a less salty taste. Also, salt substitutes are not suitable for some people, for example, those with kidney problems or heart failure. Check with your doctor before using them.
- Try to reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Three-quarters of the salt we eat is hidden in manufactured foods, ready meals and takeaways, so it will help if you eat less of these.
- If you are unable to cook from fresh, check the label for lower salt varieties when you do need to use them. As a guideline, less than 0.3g salt (or 0.1g sodium) per 100g of food is ‘a little’ and over 1.5g salt (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g is ‘a lot’.
Control your alcohol intake
Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can cause high blood pressure and damage to your heart muscle. If you drink alcohol it is important to keep within the UK guidelines:
- alcohol should be limited to no more than 14 units per week for men and women
- don’t save up your units; it’s best to spread evenly across the week
- A good way to reduce alcohol intake is to have several alcohol-free days a week.
Weight loss is beneficial
There is a strong link between high blood pressure and being overweight. This is especially true if the weight is carried centrally i.e. around your waist. Losing weight (even as little as 5-10% of your starting weight) will help. Slow and steady weight loss (about 1-2 lbs or 0.5-1kg per week) is the healthiest way to lose weight and the weight is more likely to stay off than if you lose it quickly. The best way to lose weight and reduce your waist size is by reducing your calorie intake and increasing your daily physical activity.
Other dietary factors
Some research evidence shows that eating a diet rich in certain essential minerals and fibre whilst choosing low-fat dairy foods, helps to lower blood pressure.
Some of the useful findings include the following:
Fruit and vegetables – aim to eat at least five portions per day as they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Fresh, frozen, dried, juiced and canned all count! If you are using canned vegetables, look for lower salt varieties to make sure you stay under the 6g daily limit.
Dairy foods – choose low-fat options such as semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts and low-fat cheese that are still good sources of minerals, but keep saturated fat to a minimum. Include two to three servings per day.
Wholegrains – including breakfast cereals, brown pasta and wholegrain bread. Aim for two to three servings per day to boost your fibre intake.
Oily fish – include at least one portion of dark fleshed fish per week. Examples such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines and trout are all rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have some effect on reducing blood pressure.
Taking dietary supplements such as calcium, magnesium and potassium is not recommended for reducing blood pressure.
Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your blood pressure. Try to build more physical activity into your lifestyle aiming for at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity activity a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. ‘Moderate intensity’ means any activity that makes you feel warmer, breathe harder and makes your heart beat faster than usual. Remember to check first with your doctor if you have heart problems or are new to exercise.
Drinking a lot of caffeine can raise blood pressure. If you drink a lot of coffee, tea or cola drinks you should try cutting down.
Being under stress can raise blood pressure. Using relaxation techniques such as meditation can help reduce blood pressure. Healthy changes to your lifestyle in this way can help to achieve a significant drop in your blood pressure levels