One in seven Australian adults are affected by high blood pressure, yet it often goes undetected until a medical check-up or, worse, it causes a stroke or heart attack. Thankfully diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on blood pressure levels. Here are five ways to lower your blood pressure naturally.
It’s not revolutionary advice, but it works. Fill your plate with plenty of vegetables (5 serves) and fruit (2 serves). Eating a wide variety of colourful fruit and veg will ensure you’re getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure and balances fluid levels. Foods rich in potassium include green leafy vegies, avocados, sweet potato and bananas.
You’d be surprised to know that roughly 80% of our salt intake comes from processed foods. This doesn’t include salt added at the table – so many people will be eating much more! Foods like bread, processed meat, condiments and even breakfast cereals can have a high amount. Although manufacturers are getting better at reducing the sodium levels in foods, it pays to read the labels. Look for less than 220 mg/per 100 grams or purchase products with “reduced salt”. Better still, fresh is best. Boost the flavour of your meal instead by using fresh herbs and spices.
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, salmon, mackerel or tuna are rich in omega-3 fats, which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. How omega-3 fats reduce heart disease risk is not exactly clear, but studies suggest it helps to lower blood triglycerides (blood fats) and blood pressure, as well as preventing the blood from clotting . While it is recommended to eat two or more fish meals a week, it is wise to avoid fish high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, and marlin, sea perch, and blue fin tuna. Don’t like fish? Top your morning cereal or smoothie with flaxseed, chia seeds or snack on a handful of walnuts.
Excess weight, especially around the mid-section, forces your heart to pump harder, putting you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general, men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 102 cm and women greater than 89 cm.
Having a high or even moderate intake of alcohol can raise blood pressure. Even after a few drinks your blood pressure will be temporarily raised. Limit drinking to no more than two standards drinks a day. And have a couple of alcohol-free days a week. Switching from full-strength to low-alcohol beers can help.