Blood pressure when measured presents two readings: Systolic- that is the pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood to the body. Tester will take the reading when they hear the first sound the heart makes. Diastolic- pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is also called ‘The silent killer’ as it usually doesn’t present with many symptoms, besides slight headaches and feeling dizzy.
Did you know? High blood pressure can affect anyone at any age. You can be the calmest and relaxed person but still have high blood pressure diet.
A number of factors put an individual at risk of high blood pressure:
- Inactivity – exercise helps to regulate blood pressure as well as weight.
- Poor diet – having excessive amounts of salts and fats in your diet.
- Excess weight may also rise blood pressure.
- Excessive alcohol intake.
- Smoking – the chemicals in the tobacco can damage the lining of your arteries which will promote their narrowing which in turns increases blood pressure.
- Stress- when stressed you automatically raise your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is managed with medication and a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise play a major role in helping to manage blood pressure. For instance, losing just 5 to 10% of excess weight can significantly lower your blood pressure if it is elevated.
Nutritional tips to help you manage hypertension
1. Decreasing your sodium intake
Sodium, found in salt is something we need in our diets, but most of us eat too much of it. Reducing salt in the diet can lower blood pressure. Try to have less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, the same as 6 grams of salt a day, or about 1 teaspoon. That includes ALL sodium and salt — what’s in the product, and added in cooking and at the table. If reading labels of the food you are eating then aim for less than 500 mg sodium per serving.
Typically high sodium foods include:
- Bakery items – breads, biscuits and pastries
- Canned or tinned foods
- Convenience or ready-made foods – frozen dinners, pizza, cereals and packaged mixes
- Deli items – bacon, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked meats or fish, sardines, anchovies and mayonnaise-based salads such as coleslaw
- Savoury snack foods – crackers, crisps, chips and dips
- Condiments – stock, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pickles, olives and salsa
- Sauces – gravy, barbecue, pasta, teriyaki and soy sauces
Note: You can eat your entire daily requirement of salt, and more, in a single fast food meal!
2. Increasing potassium and magnesium
Make an effort to eat fresh fruit or vegetables at every meal. Ideally half of every meal you eat should be made up of colour from nature’s colour palette so salad, vegetables and/or fruit.
Take a magnesium supplement that ensures the intake of 500mg elemental magnesium per day. This may be a simple inexpensive way of supporting a healthy blood pressure and boosting your health.
3. Omega 3 fatty acids – eat more fish!
Omega-3 fish oils are a must for anyone with cardiovascular risk. Omega-3s also lower blood pressure. A daily intake of 1,500 mg of EPA and DHA is suggested. In this case it’s the EPA that seems most important.
Fish oils contain both EPA and DHA. A serving of oily fish, such as a 150g piece of wild salmon, can provide around 3,000 mg of omega-3 fats. Of this, perhaps a quarter (800 mg) is EPA. You should aim for a minimum of 400 mg EPA per day. That’s either two high-potency omega-3 fish oil capsules a day, or half a serving of an omega-3 rich fish such as sardines, herring, or mackerel. Having three servings of fish a week and an omega-3 fish oil supplement providing around 200 mg of EPA a day is a good way to start.
Flax seed oil is also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids but take note: You have to eat a balanced diet with enough fruits and vegetables and take a multivitamin supplement to ensure that your body metabolises the flaxseed oil effectively
4. Fluid intake
If your blood level goes down, so does your blood pressure. By making your kidneys work harder, certain medications lower blood pressure. But you also lose valuable minerals such as magnesium and potassium. You’d do better by drinking more water. When there’s a lack of water, your body does everything it can to reserve what water it has. That means the sodium level inside your body goes up, because sodium can hold water inside cells. Therefore, your blood pressure goes up. Drinking about 2 liters (8 glasses) of water a day can ensure proper kidney functioning and assist with blood pressure control.
- A good all-round multivitamin formula
- Vitamin C
- Magnesium, 500 mg elemental per day
- Calcium, 1000 mg elemental per day
- Omega 3 (see section above)
REMEMBER, high blood pressure is not a life sentence. Through exercise, medication and correct eating plan it can be managed.