Take the Pressure Down!
If you are thinking that high blood pressure is not a big deal you are sadly mistaken. High blood pressure means your heart needs to work above a level which is considered normal to pump your blood around your body. This, over the long term can lead to unwanted consequences like a heart attack. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or you just want to make sure your blood pressure stays within the healthy range, here are a few manageable things you can choose in your diet.
Firstly, what is normal blood pressure? It is 120/80 or below. The top number is called systolic blood pressure, the pressure made from your heart when it contracts and pushes the blood out of your heart and the bottom number is called diastolic blood pressure or the blood pressure that happens when your heart relaxes.
If either of these numbers increase above the normal range, it can be considered that you have high blood pressure. The good news is lifestyle choices play a huge role in blood pressure and you can lower your blood pressure by following these tips:
- Fall in love with veggies and fruit.
There are so many benefits to finding more ways to sneak a few more servings of fruit and vegetables into your diet, one of them is this food group helps to lower your blood pressure. Fruit and vegetables have lots of potassium which helps to lower your blood pressure, it is the fighter against sodium, which does the opposite and increases the pressure in your blood.
- Lower your love of salt.
Your blood needs to balance the amount of sodium inside and outside your blood cell wall, when you have more salt in a meal your body needs to dilute this amount of salt so your body’s fluid balance is even both inside and outside the cell. This means inside the blood cells wall your body has more pressure and it is stressed a situation you do not want to put your body and heart under often.
So where can you find high salt foods? There is the obvious on chips and pretzels but you may not know that there salt in so many different foods, especially processed foods. One of the most common foods with higher salt levels can be found in breads and cereal products. What you can do is choose to limit or eliminate any table salt or added salt to your cooking and when choosing processed foods try to choose products with 120mg of sodium per 100g or less and if this is not possible 400mg or lower is still considered good. Good news is CORN THINS™ Original, RICE THINS™ Wholegrain and Whole Grain Thins Ancient Grains are all considered at good levels for sodium.
- Remember Dairy and Sugar.
Go for the low-fat dairy over the full fat, all fats are not the same and saturated fat found in animal products is not blood pressure’s friend. Try cutting the fat from any meat you eat or even swapping a few red meat days for legumes like kidney beans (baked beans count) or fish. Fish is a great source of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 which are heart healthy.
When it comes to sugar, added sugar not only makes your blood sugar levels go on a roller coaster but keeps your blood pressure on the top of the ride. Try to enjoy wholegrain cereal products like brown rice, wholegrain bread, brown pasta, quinoa, couscous over the white varieties. This is another reason to grab your favourite variety of CORN THINS™ , RICE THINS™ and Whole Grain Thins™. The fibre in whole grain foods, legumes and beans are the key component in helping reduce blood pressure.
- Alcohol is not your friend.
Alcohol is enjoyed by many and it still can be, if enjoyed in moderation. This means no more than 1 standard drink a day for women and 2 standard drinks a day for men. On those special occasions to do no long-term damage to your liver no more than 4 standard drinks should pass your lips. A good habit is to have a few alcohol-free days a week as well, there are other ways to relax and wind down other than reaching for the drink. Try a calming walk to a nice park or the lake near your house, practice some meditation or have a warm relaxing bath using incense.
- Snack Smart!
Nuts and seeds make a great snack. These beauties are high in protein and fibre which help keep you feeling fuller for longer, maintain a healthy weight and they taste great! You can add seeds and nuts to salads, stir fry with vegetables or even add to bread. A serving of nuts is 30g which is roughly a small handful. Portion control is important as even though these foods are good for your body, they are also high in energy and like most things in life, moderation is best.
- Move it move it!
Being active for at least 30 minutes a day or 60 minutes if you are trying to lose weight. Exercise helps your mind and body feel healthy and aids in lowering your cholesterol. Fat, which is stored around your belly, also called central adiposity is the most damaging for your body. This fat around your organs means the body needs to work harder to pump blood around your body. This is not only unattractive, hence the name ‘beer gut’, but is pushing your body, potentially, into an early grave.
- Take Time to Breathe.
Stress is a natural response from the body and has its place like in emergency situations. The bad news is long term this constant stress can make your heart feel like it is running away from a lion all the time and how could your heart last if it was pumping at this much pressure all the time? If you feel like your work environment is making you stressed try adding something relaxing to your environment, a plant can help add some calm to an environment or a relaxing photograph.
Other helpful tips could be making sure you take lunch and stop working during this time, going for a walk to unwind the mind or listening to some music which helps you reset. Work life balance is vital for health and you don’t want to be one of those people who live to work rather than work to live.
The take home message: Having high blood pressure doesn’t have to be a death sentence. You have so much power over your lifestyle choices. By swapping a few habits in your lifestyle and diet you can keep your body running in a healthy way for a long time to come.
Interested in more? Check out the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. These diets have strong evidence to support the health of your heart and may be something you want to know about.
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