Lines are open Mon-Fri 08:00 - 18:00
Almost every week there is a news headline telling us what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating to control our blood pressure. For example, recently there was a news story announcing that beetroot bread can lower blood pressure. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure (‘hypertension’) or just want to keep yours under control, here are some food dos and don’ts for you to keep in mind.
Salt causes your body to retain water, which in turn raises your blood pressure. This is because salt affects your kidneys, reducing their ability to filter excess fluid out of your blood. The extra fluid builds up in your bloodstream and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries and heart.
Many foods we eat already contain salt; therefore to reduce your salt intake you not only need to avoid adding it to food but also reduce your consumption of high-salt foods such as bread, cereal and smoked meat. Ready meals and takeaways are also often high in salt. If you eat out in a restaurant, ask if your meal can be made with reduced salt.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time, as well as potentially causing you to gain weight, which in itself is another cause of hypertension. Aim to keep to the recommended limits for alcohol consumption; 21 units a week for men and 14 for women, with daily guidelines of 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women.
Eating foods that are high in saturated fat can also contribute to hypertension. This includes butter, cheese, cakes and some meat such as meatballs and burgers. If you eat a lot of these foods you may also become overweight, which has a negative effect on your blood pressure. Try to limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet, and instead opt for food containing ‘good’ unsaturated fat such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and olive oils.
You should avoid consuming too much caffeine if you have high blood pressure as studies have shown that drinking more than four cups of coffee a day or an excessive amount of caffeinated soft drinks may contribute to hypertension. However, as long as you limit your caffeine intake and make sure to drink plenty of additional fluids throughout the day then you shouldn’t experience any problems.
Bananas and some other fruits and vegetables contain potassium, which can help to lower your blood pressure by counteracting the negatives effects of salt. The process by which your kidneys filter the blood uses a balance of salt and potassium. Consuming too much sodium upsets this balance, and potassium can restore it. However this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to eat as much salt as you want and then follow up with a bunch of bananas.
Eating low fat yoghurt or dairy products may also be helpful for controlling hypertension. This is because calcium can keep blood vessels supple, enabling them to expand slightly and bring high blood pressure down.
Some studies have suggested that eating wholegrains such as brown bread and cereals can help with high blood pressure. Like fruit and vegetables, wholegrain foods contain potassium. Wholegrains also keep you feeling fuller for longer, which helps with weight management.
Finally some good news, dark chocolate has also been advocated as a blood-pressure-lowering food. Although the connection between dark chocolate and blood pressure has not yet been fully investigated, it is thought that the antioxidants in the chocolate help to improve overall heart health and therefore lower blood pressure. However, it is important not to overdo your chocolate consumption as too much can lead to weight gain and additional health issues.
If you are concerned that you might have high blood pressure and would like further advice on this condition, you can visit the high blood pressure information page at HealthExpress for a free online consultation with a registered doctor.