Frighteningly, the 2017-18 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey found that approximately 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. 25% of men (1 in 4) and 20% of women (1 in 5) are found to have uncontrolled hypertension.
There are often no symptoms associated with hypertension, so it is important to have regular medical examinations to ensure blood pressure isn’t creeping up.
Uncontrolled hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or greater, and diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or greater. Normal blood pressure in a healthy adult is 120/80 mmHg.
Hypertension increases the risk chronic illnesses such as stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure or chronic kidney disease.
Whilst hypertension can be genetic (especially if both parents suffer from high blood pressure) diet and lifestyle choices can increase your risk.
Possible causes of high blood pressure
Excessive alcohol intake
A diet high in salt and low in potassium
A diet low in fibre and high in sugar
High Saturated Fat Diet especially if combined with a low intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs)
Diet low in calcium, magnesium, vitamin C (& antioxidants in general)
Excessive caffeine intake (4+ cups of coffee/cola/energy drinks per day)
Lack of exercise
Foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure
As dietary influences play such a major role in the development of hypertension, equally, diet modification can increase overall health and contribute to a reduction in blood pressure and associated cardiovascular disease risks.
Avoid excessive alcohol intake (aim to have less than 3 alcoholic drinks per day)
Avoid caffeine; especially coffee and carbonated beverages containing caffeine. (Green and possibly black tea may be an exception).
Reduce intake of animal fat and omega 6 which have an inflammatory effect on blood vessels and arteries, decreasing arteriole integrity
Eliminate refined, processed foods high in trans fatty acids;
Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates – (A diet high in sucrose or fructose can give rise to hyperlipidaemia, insulin resistance and hypertension).
Reduce intake of animal protein (however maintain protein at approximately 40 % of daily caloric intake).
What is D.A.S.H?
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (or D.A.S.H) is recommended for the treatment or prevention of high blood pressure.
The D.A.S.H guidelines focus on eating a balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats as well as snacking on nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables, small amounts of dark chocolate and water in between meals.
What can help reduce blood pressure?
Nutrients, fatty acids and vitamins that can assist in the management or prevention of hypertension include:
Potassium: To avoid possible toxicity through supplementation, it is better to increase potassium-rich foods in the diet to meet the body’s needs.
Magnesium: Potent inhibitor of vascular smooth muscle contraction.
EPA / DHA: Lowers cholesterol, reduces inflammation.
Coenzyme Q10: Lowers blood pressure, component of mitochondria of cardiac cells.
Arginine: Improves blood flow by stimulating nitric oxide (NO) production (vasodilation).
Vitamin C: Improves integrity of blood vessels, inhibits plaque maturation.
Vitamin E: Antioxidant, aids in blood vessel dilation/constriction.
Vitamin B6: Lowers platelet aggregation and homocysteine levels.
Calcium: Controls vascular smooth muscle cell contractility and thus modulates peripheral vascular resistance
Many people can successfully lower their blood pressure by making lifestyle adjustments.
Ensure you have your blood pressure checked regularly and of you are in the high risk category for hypertension (family history of high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and sedentary lifestyle) your doctor and naturopath or other health professionals can support you in reducing your risk of associated chronic illnesses.