High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious condition. If left untreated, it can cause various cardiovascular issues including coronary heart disease, stroke, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. It can also cause chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, renal impairment, as well as premature death.
Hypertension treatments usually last throughout the person’s lifetime due to the fact that the cause for the condition is still unknown.
As we get older, our blood vessels gradually lose their ability to stretch, which increases the risk of developing hypertension. Unfortunately, the process of aging can’t be reversed. However, making a few simple changes in your lifestyle (including your diet) can help lower your blood pressure.
1. Try to Lose Some Weight
Studies have shown that overweight people (especially those whose weight is positioned centrally, i.e. around the belly) are more likely to suffer from increased blood pressure. A steady and slow weight loss (around 0.5-1kg or 1-2 lbs. a week) and reduction of belly fat can be very helpful. To achieve this, increase your physical activity and reduce your calorie intake.
2. Eat Less Salt
People who eat lots of salt are at a higher risk of developing hypertension. An average adult should consume up to 6g (about 1 teaspoon) of salt per day.
The main culprit for hypertension is sodium which is found in salt (including table salt, sea salt, salt crystals, flakes, and flavored salt).
Here are a few tips to help you eat less salt:
Take the salt container away from the table after you’ve added salt to your meal.
Add less salt and more spices/herbs when cooking.
Don’t add salt if you’re already using broth cubes because they’re loaded with salt. In addition, use reduced-salt broth cubes whenever possible.
Be careful with salt substitutes like potassium chloride. If you have heart or kidney problems, they might not be suitable for you.
Eat less processed foods, takeaways, ready meals, and manufactured foods.
3. Consume Less Alcohol
Consuming more alcohol than the recommended can cause hypertension and damage your heart. Here are a few guidelines that will help you stay on the safe side:
Both men and women are recommended to drink up to 14 units of alcohol a week.
Make sure to have a few no-alcohol days per week to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.
Try to spread the alcohol units you consume evenly across the week.
4. Eat More Heart-Friendly Foods
Studies have shown that eating food rich in fiber and essential minerals can help reduce blood pressure.
Here’s what you should focus on:
Oily fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines are packed with omega 3’s which are effective in lowering blood pressure. Try to eat at least one portion a week.
Fruits and veggies, whether fresh, juices, canned, dried, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Wholegrains including wholegrain bread, brown pasta, and breakfast cereals are also very rich in fiber.
Dairy – opt for low-fat dairy foods like low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, and semi-skimmed milk, which are rich in minerals, but low in saturated fats. Consume 2-3 servings a day.
Avoid taking supplements like potassium, magnesium, and calcium for lowering blood pressure.
5. Other Risk Factors
Consuming lots of caffeine can also have a negative effect on your blood pressure. Try cutting down on coffee, cola drinks, and tea.
6. Get Active
Try to be active for at least 2 hours a week. Choose moderate-intensity exercises, i.e. exercises that slightly increase your heart rate, make you breathe faster, and feel warmer than usual. If you already suffer from a heart condition or you have never exercised before, make sure to consult with your doctor.
7. High Blood Pressure Medication
If the above-suggested lifestyle changes don’t give the desired results, you will need medication like Amlodipine to keep your illness under control.