Developing high blood pressure can have serious health implications such as stroke, heart attack and loss of vision.

It often presents with no symptoms initially, which is why it is called the ‘silent killer’

Once diagnosed it is usually treated successfully with one or several drugs, but as with all medications they usually come with side effects, so taking steps to optimise blood pressure control before hypertension occurs may be a better option.

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There is no easy fix, but an all-round approach to maintain optimal blood pressure, including stress reduction, relaxation, exercise and beneficial dietary choices are accepted practice in reducing risk of developing this condition.

Step 1. Relaxation

It is understood that stress plays a significant role in the development of high blood pressure, therefore try to take time out to relax each day. Studies appear to show positive outcomes in improved blood pressure control through therapies such as mindfulness and meditation.

Step 2. Exercise

A review in 2015 found that introducing moderate aerobic exercise such as rapid walking, jogging or swimming most days, and resistance training exercises for example machine weights, free weights or resistance bands 2-3 times a week appeared to offer the greatest benefits in blood pressure control.

Exercising outside would also help to increase your Vitamin D levels, a nutrient that is being studied for possible beneficial effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

Step 3. Weight

Try to maintain a healthy weight, fat cells are known to promote inflammation which is capable of damaging blood vessels, making them less pliable.

Step 4. Diet

It is believed that a Mediterranean diet high in fruit and vegetables, adequate good quality protein, omega 3 from oily fish, olive oil and fibre offers great benefits for cardiovascular health including blood pressure regulation.

optimal blood pressure_2Why would this be?

Olive oil is understood to protect cholesterol from the damage, a known promoter of harmful plaque build-up within blood vessels, it is also a rich source of antioxidants believed to protect blood vessels.

Omega 3’s found within oily fish assist in the reduction of inflammation this appears to be linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

There seems to be a positive relationship between good protein intake and reduced blood pressure. It is uncertain exactly how this effect is exerted, however increased kidney function, impact of protein requirements for a gas called nitric oxide (produced by blood vessels to facilitate relaxation) are all areas of investigation.

Soy protein in particular has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood pressure.

Good sources of protein are found in: red meat, low fat dairy, poultry, fish, soy and legumes. Nuts and seeds also offer an excellent source of protein within vegetarian type meals or as snacks between meals.

Including plenty of fruit and vegetables increases intake of nutrients which appear to support blood pressure control such as: potassium found in spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, melon and bananas etc. Increasing potassium intake may offer as much benefit on blood pressure maintenance as reducing salt.

Fruit and vegetables are also high in folic acid and vitamin B6 which along with vitamin B12 found within salmon and sardines, liver, egg yolks and various cheeses helps to reduce homocysteine, a product of amino acid synthesis which is understood to cause damage to blood vessels. They are rich sources of fibre and nutrients to support beneficial bacteria in the gut which appear to assist in reducing inflammation.

By including green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and unrefined grains you are also improving magnesium intake it is agreed this mineral helps relax muscles including those within blood vessels therefore possibly offering benefit in blood pressure control.

Inclusion of lean animal protein, sea food and eggs ensures a good intake of taurine, an amino acid which has within certain studies offered benefit in blood pressure control.

Beetroot may have hit the press recently for athletic performance but studies have also shown increased levels of nitric oxide in the blood following consumption of beetroot was found to reduce blood pressure in study participants.

What to avoid!

High intake of saturated fats, processed oils, high intake of simple carbohydrates, excess consumption of alcohol (odd glass of red wine is good) and stress! These promote inflammation and alterations to control systems for blood pressure maintenance.

Note: Those on medication should not make changes within their diets before discussing it with a health care professional.

References available on request.

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