High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and is still the major causes of death in Australia.
Even younger people who have blood pressure readings in the upper range of normal (between 120/80 and 140/90) can be affected by a heart issue later on in middle age, according to researchers writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
And, because it is often a silent condition, you may not know you have hypertension unless you have your blood pressure checked.
Here’s how to normalise your blood pressure naturally.
- Lose a few
Your blood pressure rises as your weight does because being too heavy makes your heart work harder – the strain can lead to hypertension. Losing just a few kg can make a big difference if you’re overweight. Speak with your GP for more advice.
- Get moving
Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it – it can help your heart pump more blood with less effort. If you have slight high blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid full-blown hypertension. And if you have already been diagnosed, regular exercise can help you reduce your blood pressure to safer levels. Aim for half an hour or more on most days of the week and try to be consistent otherwise you’ll lose the benefits.
- Slash salt
Salt draws in fluid, raising the volume and pressure of blood in your arteries. Most salt in the average person’s diet comes from processed foods so cooking more from scratch will have a dramatic salt lowering effect, especially if you eat out a lot or you’re a fast food fan. Add flavour with fresh herbs, citrus, chilli, garlic and balsamic vinegar.
- Eat more veggies
These pack a protective nutrient punch – they’re high in fibre and low in kilojoules. Veggies and fruits also contain potassium, which can reduce the blood pressure raising effects of sodium (salt). Pulses, fish, shellfish, nuts and seeds are also rich in potassium.
- Stub out the habit
The nicotine in tobacco constricts blood vessels and triggers the production of adrenaline, making your heart beat faster and your heart work harder. See your GP for more information on quitting smoking.
- Limit alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Stick to the recommended daily maximum of two standard alcoholic drinks.
- Ask if you snore
Constant snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing while you’re asleep). It’s associated with hypertension because your body could be suddenly jolted awake due to lack of oxygen. The sudden burst of adrenaline causes a surge in blood pressure. Not smoking, losing weight and decreasing or stopping your alcohol intake may help you stop snoring. Talk to your GP for individual advice.
- Watch the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may increase blood pressure, tightening blood vessels and intensifying the effects of stress. Stick to a daily maximum of 400mg or less (around four cups of coffee).
- Find some downtime
Working is a must for most of us but working very long hours may mean you don’t have the time or energy to exercise, relax and eat well. Try to find time – balancing work and life are essential for a healthier future.