High blood pressure means the force of blood pushing against a person’s artery walls is consistently too high, and, if left untreated, this puts extra strain on a person’s blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes. Persistent high blood pressure can raise a person’s risk of developing a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as heart disease and strokes. Luckily, overhauling one’s diet can bring a person’s reading down to normal levels, and certain foods have been touted for their blood-pressure lowering benefits.
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According to the NHS, cutting salt intake to less than six grams a day, which is about about a teaspoonful, and eating a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help a person to lower their blood pressure reading.
According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating blueberries in particular can help to stave off the risk of high blood pressure.
Compared with those who do not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving a week reduce their risk of developing the condition by 10 percent, the study revealed.
The study researchers attribute the blood-pressure lowering effect to anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid.
Flavanoids are a family of compounds found in fruit and vegetables that have been shown to boost antioxidant effects.
Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures – a process that can act as a precursor to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The findings are the result of a large-scale study that followed 134,000 women and 47,000 men from the Harvard established cohorts, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study over a period of 14 years.
None of the participants had hypertension at the start of the study. Subjects were asked to complete health questionnaires every two years and their dietary intake was assessed every four years.
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Incidence of newly diagnosed hypertension during the 14-year period was then related to consumption of various different flavonoids.
During the study, 35,000 participants developed hypertension.
Dietary information identified tea as the main contributor of flavonoids, with apples, orange juice, blueberries, red wine, and strawberries also providing important amounts.
When the researchers looked at the relation between individual subclasses of flavonoids and hypertension, they found that participants consuming the highest amounts of anthocyanins (found mainly in blueberries and strawberries in this US-based population) were eight percent less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those consuming the lowest amounts, and the effect was even stronger in participants under 60.
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In addition to blueberries, other rich sources of anthocyanins in the UK include blackcurrants, blood oranges, aubergines and raspberries, said lead author Professor Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition at UEA’s Medical School.
Other ways to lower blood pressure
Keeping fit also offers robust protection against high blood pressure, as Mayo Clinic explained: “Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
An active lifestyle also helps to keep weight under control – obesity is a major risk factor for high blood pressure and its associated conditions.
Significantly, as the health site points out, becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading.
Systolic blood pressure is more important than diastolic blood pressure because it gives the best idea of your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, according to Blood Pressure UK.
Aerobic activity can be an effective way to control high blood pressure.
The NHS recommends people do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) to reap the optimal health benefits.
According to Mayo Clinic, any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic activity, including:
- Household chores, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, gardening or scrubbing the floor
- Active sports, such as basketball or tennis
- Climbing stairs
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