Blood pressure can be defined as the force of blood being forced through arteries and blood vessels by the action of your heart. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury using a sphygmomanometer and two readings associated with blood force are used. Systolic, the pressure at which your heart is contracting and diastolic, the pressure at which your heart is relaxing. Normal readings of this pressure are expressed as *120/80.
Persistent elevated systolic or diastolic readings usually recorded by your G.P over time is termed hypertension or high blood pressure. It is sometimes called the silent killer because it can develop without symptoms. Chronic persistent high blood pressure is a risk factor in coronary heart disease, and left untreated can lead to heart failure, stroke or kidney failure. Hypertension is associated with a number of factors such as excessive salt intake, which reduces the ability of your kidneys to remove water, increasing blood volume, which increases blood pressure. Other factors are stress, obesity, smoking, high alcohol intake and lack of exercise.
How Nutrition is Key to a Healthy Blood Pressure:
- A healthy balanced diet can play a role in hypertension control. Consumption of certain minerals through food, namely potassium, magnesium, and calcium are needed for dilation or relaxation of blood vessels, which has a blood pressure lowering action. Foods to include to benefit from these minerals are: sweet potatoes, apricots, prunes, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Other sources are almonds (unsalted) broccoli, and mineral water.
- Dietary sodium intake is an important factor in blood pressure and according to the Irish Heart Foundation, over 50% of Irish men and women over 50 years of age have high blood pressure. Research is showing that a moderate reduction in salt intake has important beneficial effects on our blood pressure. In Ireland it is recommended we have no more than 6 grams of salt per day. It is important to remember that when we eat certain foods we have no control over the amount of salt we consume. These foods include tinned products, salted foods such as nuts, crisps, and crackers, and processed frozen products.
- Some general advice in blood pressure regulation would include: cook from fresh; reduce convenience and tinned food products; avoid adding extra salt to foods; increase consumption of vegetables and fruits, these will also boost fibre intake.
- Limit alcohol and exercise regularly. Any persons on blood pressure medications should continue to do so with the advice of your G.P.
This information has been brought to you by Nutritional Therapist and College of Naturopathic Medicine Lecturer Marc Murphy, who specialises in Weight Management.