High blood pressure rarely shows itself. Few people know they have it until they are measured, with as many as 7 million people in the UK living with the risk, undiagnosed. The problem gets worse when you consider that high blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease.
Blood pressure is influenced by a range of factors – from the food you eat, to how much exercise you take, and your overall emotional state. Age is also a major contributor, with 60% of over 65 year-olds experiencing high blood pressure compared to 45% between ages 55-64.
So, how can you make simple lifestyle changes to keep high blood pressure at bay?
Can food affect your blood pressure?
Diet is a strong determinant for a healthier life. What you put in your mouth not only affects your energy and mood, it can boost or slow down the function of your brain. It’s no wonder, then, that nutrition also plays a crucial role in maintaining good blood pressure.
Processed carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice, are stripped of their beneficial nutrients and fibre, and cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels. These fluctuations can damage your nephrons, which form the part of the kidneys that play a role in regulating your blood pressure.
Salt is another major culprit. Too much of it and your body will hold on to more water, putting strain on delicate blood vessels leading to the kidney, also raising your blood pressure.
Eating these foods in moderation will help lower your blood pressure. Choosing alternatives that are high in fibre will also act as protection.
Foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, quinoa and whole oats, are full of nutritional value and are absorbed slowly into our systems, avoiding big changes in blood sugar levels. (Find more healthy food suggestions here.)
Making simple adjustments to your everyday meals could have a long-lasting impact on your health. But, when you’re just starting out, we know this can feel overwhelming. To make the path of healthy eating easier, why not get your friends and family involved? Motivate one another by sharing new recipes, visiting your local farmers market or cooking together.
Can lifestyle affect your blood pressure?
Lifestyle choices, like the hobbies you choose, can also influence your blood pressure. Exercise is a particularly vital component.
The best forms of exercise to maintain good blood pressure are cycling, swimming or jogging, as these help our heart and blood circulation without being too vigorous. In comparison, activities that are considered intense, such as weight lifting or scuba diving, may have an adverse effect and should be approached carefully.
Thirty-minutes of moderate exercise is enough. You could take your dog for a walk, go for a swim or try cycling around a new area. It would help to do this daily, but you can ease yourself into this healthier transition over time.
Can stress affect your blood pressure?
Day to day, the need to juggle money, family and work may be causing you stress, affecting you both mentally and emotionally. Of course, everyone experiences It differently, but stress can worsen your mood, burden your sleep and affect your weight, as well as raising your blood pressure.
Knowing and practising how to unwind can make things that little bit easier.
Talk to your friends
It may sound simple but confiding in someone close to you is a great way to de-stress. Clearing your mind about any problems you’re experiencing and looking for solutions together will help ease the burden.
Start a diary
Expressing your thoughts and feelings in a diary can also help you become more in tune with yourself. Not only will you be better able to identify shifts in mood, and what triggers them, jotting down what you’d like to do differently or what you’d like to achieve will give you greater control over those feelings, while giving your mind something to focus on.
Make time for yourself
Self-care is bandied around a lot, and with good reason. The results of looking after your needs can be significant, increasing your productivity, creativity and build your mental strength.
It may be that you use time alone to read, paint or learn how to cook. Or that you simply carve out time in your day for a lovely warm bath. Put on your favourite music, light a candle and relax.
Managing your blood pressure doesn’t have to be a challenge; a few simple changes can have a dramatic effect. If you’re at all worried about your blood pressure, please do consult your GP for expert advice.