If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure (140/90mmHg or higher), or your reading falls within the medium risk range (120/80mmHg – 140/90mm/Hg), here's what you can do lifestyle-wise to get it down.
10 ways to lower your blood pressure
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Reducing your salt (sodium) intake, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are key – and if you drink alcohol or smoke, now is the time to cut back or quit. In terms of food, a balanced Mediterranean-style or similar DASH diet rich in fruit and veg, wholegrains and oily fish is proven to lower blood pressure. “There are also certain foods that may help,” says nutrition expert Professor Joan Salge Blake.
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Clinical researchers have found that some foods can lower blood pressure more effectively than others when eaten as part of a wholesome diet, so we've rounded-up the best. Stock up on these 10 hypertension-busting wonders and incorporate them in your meals when you can.
1. Sweet potato
Studies show that three essential minerals – potassium, calcium and magnesium – relax blood vessel walls, cancelling out the effects of sodium and lowering blood pressure. Ideally, you want to fill your diet with foods that contain these crucial micronutrients, such as sweet potato, which is one of the best sources of dietary potassium.
How to cook sweet potatoes
Avocados are also packed with potassium, not to mention heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, so they're well worth adding to your shopping list. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream, which along with high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
Sweet potato cakes with avocado and lime
If sweet potatoes and avocados don't take your fancy, opt for a banana instead. “Bananas are a rich source of potassium which is vital for regulating blood pressure,” says leading dietitian Sarah Schenker. Eating just two bananas a day can lower blood pressure by 10% according to a recent study.
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4. Low fat yoghurt
Loaded with hypertension-easing calcium and magnesium, low fat yoghurt is proven to help regulate blood pressure, especially in women. A major study conducted earlier this year by Boston University found that women who ate five or more servings a week had a 20% lower risk of developing blood pressure than women who ate fewer than one serving a month.
5. Pumpkin seeds
Not just for Halloween, next time you're preparing pumpkin, make sure you reserve the seeds. These moreish morsels contain more magnesium weight for weight that any other foodstuff – just a small handful of pumpkin seeds contains around half your recommended daily intake (RDI) of the mineral.
The seeds of goodness
This trendy leafy green is the best dietary source of nitrate, a chemical that dilates blood vessels and expands the arteries, lowering blood pressure. Rocket is a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium to boot, making it a fantastic all-round hypertension buster. Aim for several portions a week to reap the benefits.
Wild rocket salad with salmon
Beetroot is another excellent source of nitrate. Study after study has demonstrated that the purple-hued root veggie can lower blood pressure as part of a healthy, balanced diet. A 2013 analysis of 16 studies concluded that regular consumption of beetroot juice in particular is associated with a significant reduction in blood pressure.
Saga Health Insurance offers a range of health plans which provide cover if you develop high blood pressure (hypertension). If you've already been diagnosed they can often still cover your hypertension anyway, subject to some simple health questions and an additional premium. Find out more.
A study published in the journal Hypertension in 2013 indicates that a diet rich in flaxseeds can lower blood pressure. Researchers found that participants who ate two to four teaspoons of flaxseeds a day experienced a drop in blood pressure of around 10%. While the jury is still out, researchers think the alpha-linolenic acid in flax helps unblock clogged arteries, lowering the pressure of the blood passing through them.
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Berries such as strawberries and blueberries are rich in anthocyanidins, potent antioxidants that help strengthen blood vessel walls. “The ability of anthocyanidins to reduce the fragility and permeability of these small blood vessels means that anthocyanidins are thought to be able to reduce blood pressure,” says Sarah Schenker.
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Backing up previous research findings, a recent study conducted by scientists in Ireland, Portugal and Spain has linked diets that are high in oily fish like salmon and mackerel with lower blood pressure readings. The international team found that participants who ate more than three servings of oily fish a week had significantly lower blood pressure readings.
Visit our salmon recipe hub
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