Blood pressure how is yours?
As a doctor anti-hypertensive drugs are probably the medicines that most patients are on that and statins that we covered the last couple of days. However, one drug often doesn’t do the job and this becomes the start of the poly-pharmacy that we see so frequently when documenting what drugs patients are on.
Recent studies have shown that the number one risk factor for death is high blood pressure or hypertension as it is known in medical jargon and this is because it contributes to death from a wide variety of causes such as aneurysms, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. Increased blood pressure puts a strain on the heart and can damage the small and sensitve vessels in your eyes and kidneys and can cause ballooning of vessels (aneurysms) causing them to rupture.
Studies over the years have shown that the 2 main dietary risks for high blood pressure and its effects may be not eating enough fruit and eating too much salt.
Salt – salt is a compound of which apx 40 % is sodium now sodium is an essential nutrient and it naturally occurs in vegetables and other natural foods. But when you add additional salt that is more than your body needs – it responds by water retention and this can cause your body to increase your blood pressure to push the excess salt out.
Most people consume double the amount of salt that they need and estimates for what you actually need is…..3/4 tsp! That is all – I know on the rare occasions I have chips I def have more than that. What about you?
So action plan – just stop adding salt in, also look at the labels if you eat processed food and be aware of the salt content. Interestingly, I was looking at the tins of baked beans I had a month back and I realised that the organic baked beans had significantly more salt in them than a well-known brand so I’ve now swapped as I feel the low salt content out-weighs the lack of organic certification of the beans as I eat baked beans almost daily.
So if the key to BP management is to cut out salt as mentioned (your taste buds will adjust in just a few short weeks) what foods can you add in to help?
Whole grains – 3 portions of whole grains a day can significantly reduce BP – whole as in not refined so oats, whole wheat and brown rice – refined grains can actually increase your risk.
Ground flaxseeds (linseed) has one of the best anti-hypertensive effects a few tablespoons a day can have a powerful reduction but introduce it slowly if you are on meds as you find it reduces it too much too soon.
Eating more vegetables – raw appears to be slightly more protective.
Legumes – all those beans, lentils chickpeas help a bit – I don’t have high blood pressure I didn’t before going vegan and now with my daily baked bean habit I definitely don’t.
Hibiscus Tea – studies showed that 2 strong cups of this floral tea every morning is as effective as a starting dose of a leading anti-hypertensive.
Keeping the vessels healthy is also vital for normalising BP and eating lots of fruit and veg you flood your body with anti-oxidants which eliminate the free radicals and boost your body’s production of nitric oxide (which signals your arteries to relax and therefore increase blood flow) and by increasing your consumption of nitrate rich food (beetroot, Swiss chard, coriander, rhubarb, rocket to name a few) that your body can then convert into nitric oxide you improve blood flow further – great for athletes, heart disease, patients with erectile dysfunction.
So there is some food for thought… How do those foods feature on your shopping list? Remember prevention is always better than cure.
Let me know what you think.