High blood pressure means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This process causes your arteries to lose their stretchiness and become stiff or narrow. The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up, and if the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack.
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Fortunately, by making healthy dietary decisions, you can relax the arteries and reverse the condition, warding off the threat of cardiovascular complications.
Certain foods have been been shown to lower high blood pressure and decrease arterial stiffness.
One study investigating the blood-pressure lowering effects of eating spinach found that this popular leafy, green vegetable reduce high blood pressure by easing arterial stiffness.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research, attributed the blood-pressure lowering effect to dietary nitrate, a compound found in the leafy, green vegetable.
Research investigating the relationship between nitrates and high blood pressure revealed that the compound sends signals to the tiny muscle cells around the arteries, telling them to relax.
When these cells relax, our blood vessels dilate and blood pressure goes down.
According to research, this is actually how the well known drug nitroglycerin works. It is a source of nitrate, which helps to dilate the blood vessels.
This can prevent or reverse angina, chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen due to reduced blood flow.
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Bolstering the case for consuming nitrate-rich items, studies have shown that nitrate supplements, such as beet roots or beet root juice, can reduce blood pressure by up to 4-10 mm/Hg over a period of a few hours.
While upping your intake of heart-healthy foods such as spinach will help to keep high blood pressure under control, it is also important to shun certain dietary decisions that will send your reading soaring.
Consuming too much salt is the worst culprit if you are looking to bring down your reading.
The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be so it is important to not exceed the recommended guidelines for salt intake.
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The NHS recommends aiming to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
The British Heart Foundation recommends the following tips to slash your salt intake:
- Don’t add salt when cooking. This includes salty foods like soy sauce, stock cubes and gravy granules.
- Get extra flavour with herbs and spices, and from seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice.
- If you really can’t do without a salty favour, you could try using a small amount of low-sodium salt substitute. If you have kidney problems or diabetes, check with your doctor or nurse first.
- Jarred cooking sauces and table sauces like ketchup, mustard and pickles can contain a lot of salt. Check the label and choose low-salt options.
- Bread and breakfast cereals can contain a lot of salt. Check the labels to compare brands.
- Smoked and processed meats and fish contain a lot of salt. Limit your intake of these.
- If you are eating out, ask if your meal can be made with less salt. This may not be possible, but it is always worth asking.
- Look out for low-salt recipes. There are a number of low-salt cookbooks available, or you can search on the Internet.
“At first, food without salt may taste bland, but don’t give up. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt,” explains the health body.
Other key lifestyle tips
Regular exercise is also plays a key role in keeping blood pressure under control.
How are high blood pressure and exercise connected?
According to Mayo Clinic: “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.”
Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of four to nine millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).
Systolic blood pressure gives the best idea of your risk of having a stroke or heart attack so lowering this number plays a vital role in protecting heat health.
Aerobic activity can be an effective way to control high blood pressure, and any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic activity, explains Mayo Clinic.
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