According to the British Heart Foundation, approximately 14.4 million adults in the UK suffer with high blood pressure. Of this amount, approximately 9 million have been diagnosed by their GP.
High blood pressure can increase your risk of…
- Heart attacks
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
How to measure your blood pressure
When measuring someone’s blood pressure, two types of pressure are measured.
There’s systolic pressure which is the force of which your heart beats and pumps blood, which is always the top highest number.
The bottom number (also the lowest number) is your diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats so it can refill with blood.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure also known as hypertension is where someone’s blood pressure measures 140/90mmHg or higher. If you are over the age of 80 then the measurement for high blood pressure is 150/90mmHg or higher.
What is the ideal blood pressure?
The ideal blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
What if your blood pressure is higher than the ideal blood pressure measurement, but lower than that which is considered high blood pressure?
A blood pressure that measures somewhere between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean that you are at risk of developing high blood pressure therefore it is important to take steps to reduce your risk. Remember that everyone’s blood pressure will be a little different, therefore do get in contact with your GP should you wish to get a reading or better understanding of your measurement.
Steps to reduce your blood pressure
1) Maintain a healthy BMI – those who are overweight are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
2) Healthy diet – Ensure you have an adequate daily intake of fruit and vegetables whilst ensuring you also do not consume too much salt. Cooking as often as possible from scratch is a great way to ensure you get plenty of beneficial nutrients into your diet and can also monitor how much salt you are consuming.
Remember ready meals are often laden with salt preservatives, therefore avoiding these as much as possible and trading it for some home cooking is a great way to monitor and stay on track.
3) Plenty of sleep – A lack of sleep could lead towards high blood pressure therefore it’s important that you get adequate (minimum of 7 hours) shut eye each night.
Sleep helps to regulate your hormones, including the reduction of stress hormones which can help support your metabolism. Inadequate sleep could therefore cause irregularities to your hormones resulting in high blood pressure and other adverse health effects.
4) Avoid smoking and taking stimulants – smoking, drinking too much alcohol or coffee (caffeine) can all contribute towards raising your blood pressure.
Trading your caffeine intake for chicory root coffee can be a great way to still get the tasting notes of coffee but without the adverse effects of caffeine. Chicory root is also great for your gut health as it is also a prebiotic which feeds the good bacteria within your digestive tract.
5) Reduce your stress levels – Many people experience frequent moments of stress and even chronic stress because of modern day living, and this is often a contributing factor to people’s high blood pressure.
Take note of what is making you stressed and find out if you can remove these stressors from your life. Some stressors aren’t so easily removed such as work stressors, but you can address how you deal with them.
It might be that you need to schedule more “me-time” in your diary, a space to practice deep breathing, write your daily gratitude’s to distancing yourself from the things that cause you to feel stressed as a way to calm your nervous system and put you in a state of relaxation.
Supplements to consider when trying to reduce blood pressure
Disclaimer: Speak with your health practitioner before making any changes to your diet
1) Garlic supplementation – Studies (Varshney et al 2016) have shown how supplementing with garlic extract has been shown to reduce peoples blood pressure by 7 – 16 mm HG (systolic) and 5 - 0 mm HG (diastolic). It reduced people’s cholesterol by 7.4-29.8 mg/dL (Ried 2020), ultimately helping to prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The mechanism by which it has the ability to lower blood pressure is multifactorial, one being able to increase the availability of nitric oxide, inhibiting ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme which regulates blood pressure) and reducing the number of pathways that decrease plasma volume and vasoconstriction.
A bonus to garlic supplementation is that it can also improve your gut microbiome with the same studies demonstrating how participants that supplemented for 3 months had increased numbers of Lactobacillus and Clostridia and higher diversity and microbial richness.
2) Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids – It is also beneficial to get a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids into the diet, this could be in the form of consuming oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, taking a fish oil supplement and for vegans you can even take a vegan omega-3 supplement.
This is because besides the other health benefits, the EPA and DHA within omega-3 have been shown in studies to reduce the blood pressure of people with high blood pressure by 4.5mm Hg systolic and 3.0mm Hg diastolic (Miller et al. 2014).
3) Vitamin C – Whilst more long-term studies need to be carried out, there have been some short-term trials (Jurascheck et al. 2012) which have demonstrated that the increased intake of vitamin c has been shown to have a beneficial effect in lowering people’s blood pressure.
British Heart Foundation [Online]. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2019/may/four-million-people-are-living-with-untreated-high-blood-pressure (Accessed 19 October 2021).
Miller, P. Elswyk, M. Alexander, D. (2014). ‘Long-chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid and Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials’, American Journal of Hypertension, pp885-896, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/27/7/885/158919 (Accessed 19 October 2021).
Varshney, R. Budoff, M. (2016). ‘Garlic and Heart Disease’, J Nutrition, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26764327/ (Accessed 19 October 2021).
Ried. K. (2020). ‘Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Subjects, Improves Arterial Stiffness and Gut Microbioita: A Review and Meta-Analytics, Expt Ther Med, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32010325/ (Accessed 19 October 2021).
Juraschek, S. Guallar, E. Appel, L. Miller, E (2012). ‘Effects of Vitamin C Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials’, Am J Nutri, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325833/ (Accessed 19 October 2021).