Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure
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High blood pressure often has no symptoms, and many people who have high blood pressure do not know it, according to the NHS. The British Heart Foundation states many people with high blood pressure feel fine, “so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly”.
The American Heart Association says foods that are rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure.
This is “because potassium lessens the effects of sodium”. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine.
The organisation says: “Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.”
It says increasing potassium through diet is recommended in adults with blood pressure above 120/80 who are otherwise healthy.
It warns: “Potassium can be harmful in patients with kidney disease, any condition that affects how the body handles potassium, or those who take certain medications.
“The decision of whether to take excess potassium should be discussed with your doctor.”
The recommended potassium intake for an average adult is 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day and potassium is only one component of a well-rounded plan for blood pressure health.
It says: “Even though potassium can lessen the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium, eating more potassium should be combined with your efforts to break up with that excess salt and develop other healthy eating and lifestyle habits.”
The main reason potassium is recommended is because it helps manage salt and its effects on your body.
The NHS says: “A diet high in salt (or sodium) can cause raised blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Some foods are almost always high in salt because of the way they are made.”
Blood Pressure UK explains: “Salt makes your body hold onto water. If you eat too much, the extra water in your blood means there is extra pressure on your blood vessel walls, raising your blood pressure.”
It says that as well as reducing the amount of salt you eat and having a generally healthy diet, you should cut back on alcohol, lose weight if you’re overweight, cut down on caffeine, and if you are a smoker you should stop smoking.
If you are over the age of 40, the NHS says you should be getting it checked every five years.
Blood pressure testing is available:
- At your GP surgery – by a GP, practice nurse, healthcare assistant or self-service machine
- At some pharmacies
- At an NHS Health Check appointment offered to adults aged 40 to 74 in England
- In some workplaces
- At a health event.
You can also test your blood pressure at home using a home testing kit.
Blood pressure is defined as the force put on your blood vessels and organs as blood is pumped around your body by your heart.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure, higher number, is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure, lower number, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
The NHS says: “Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.”
As many as five million adults in the UK have undiagnosed high blood pressure, so will not know that they are at risk, according to the British Heart Foundation.
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