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Eating right when you have high blood pressure

Posted in: Heart Health 23 Feb, 2012

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common condition that is associated with a number of health concerns such as cardiovascular disease. The term blood pressure simply refers to the force that is exacted when the blood is pushed through the blood vessels. If this pressure is higher than what is considered normal, high blood pressure - otherwise known as hypertension - is diagnosed. People who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure are often advised to make a series of lifestyle changes in order to control or reduce their blood pressure level. Nutrition can pay a vital role in this task.

How does nutrition affect blood pressure?

The food you eat can have a significant effect on your blood pressure. Certain foods are known to increase blood pressure, such as those which have high levels of sodium (salt). Fatty foods are also associated with high blood pressure, as gaining weight is known to increase blood pressure. Losing weight can have a positive effect on high blood pressure.

What foods should I eat if I’m concerned about my blood pressure?

Generally, you should try to avoid foods that contain high levels of sodium and fat. It is a good idea to read the nutritional labels that are printed on most food products to determine if your chosen food is healthy for you. Many people choose to focus solely on calorie content, but this often does not give the full picture of the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of a particular food. For example, a “low fat” option may be low in calories but could theoretically contain large amounts of salt. Lowering your salt intake is very important in controlling blood pressure. A good way to begin is to stop using salt as a food seasoning by replacing it with other herbs and spices.

spoon of saltTry and consume plenty of fruit and vegetables, which retain their nutritional value whether they are fresh or frozen. Skinless lean meat is recommended, as is skimmed rather than whole milk. As a general rule, it is advisable to avoid ready-made “convenience” foods as these tend to have a high sodium content. Fried food, salad dressing and salted products should also be avoided.

Why is salt such a problem for high blood pressure?

Sodium is a naturally-occurring mineral in food that is contained in salt. Salt is a vital mineral, but when consumed in too high quantities it is known to contribute to high blood pressure levels. This is because when too much salt is consumed the body retains more water than is necessary in order to help wash out the salt from the body. This extra water puts the heart and the blood vessels under extra strain, which raises blood pressure.

The NHS recommends that adults consume a maximum of 6g of salt per day, which is approximately one full teaspoon.

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