Health Conditions : Blood Pressure
What is Blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is considered to be a blood pressure reading of over 140/90 mmHg (millimetres of mercury).
Factors that contribute to high blood pressure include: being over-weight, exposure to long-term stress, smoking, and a high-fat diet. The danger with high blood pressure is that it greatly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack.
Whilst nutrients can of course affect blood pressure, taking steps to address the cause is the best course of action.
This mineral helps to reduce high blood pressure in a couple of ways. Firstly, magnesium helps protect against stress-induced blood pressure by having a calming effect of the nervous system. Secondly, it is also known that good levels of magnesium in the blood actually help to prevent and inhibit the deposition of calcium onto blood vessel walls (which contributes to plaque development). It is in this way that magnesium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure by protecting blood vessels from becoming ‘furred up’ and contributing to high blood pressure.
Best magnesium food sources include: green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C and sulphur are vital ingredients for the body to build a strong collagen matrix within the blood vessel walls, making them strong, resilient, and resistant to wear and tear. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it is essential to meet daily needs through the diet since very little can be stored within the body for reserves. Good levels of vitamin C are the first step in preventing high blood pressure as building and maintaining strong blood vessel walls prevents the development of those tiny holes and tears which when repaired lead to narrowed arteries and increased blood pressure.
Best vitamin C food sources include: fresh parsley, oranges, lemons, limes, redcurrants and blackcurrants.
One of the best ways to prevent your blood from becoming too thick and sticky is to increase your intake of oily fish or to take an Omega-3 Fish Oil supplement. Studies have shown fish oil supplementation to be effective at reducing high levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides and for restoring HDL / LDL cholesterol balance. Fish oils can literally ‘thin the blood’ and rebalance blood fats, resulting in beneficial effects for blood pressure, whilst reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Best oily fish food sources include: fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon and herrings.
It may seem strange that something that doesn’t even get absorbed into the body can have a positive influence over your blood. However, soluble fibre affects blood pressure by helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is passed to your liver where it is broken down and processed into one of the components of bile and then passed out into the intestine for elimination from the body. Once in the intestine, the cholesterol break-down products bind with soluble fibre in order to be carried out of the body. If you are constipated, or your diet is low in soluble fibre, then there is a strong chance that the broken down cholesterol will just be re-absorbed and re-circulated back around the body. As elevated cholesterol can contribute to high blood pressure, increasing dietary intake of soluble fibre to maintain bowel regularity is an important factor for maintaining healthy blood pressure. A good way to do this is to start the day with porridge or oat-based muesli to which you can add one teaspoon of oat bran.
Best soluble-fibre food sources include: oats, oat bran, apples, pears, lentils and pulses such as butter beans, pinto beans and chickpeas.
All fats that travel in the blood, whether they are derived from saturated fat or omega-3 oils, are vulnerable to oxidation and once oxidised they become harmful and make the blood thicker and stickier. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E help protect blood fats from this oxidation. Other antioxidants such as flavanols and proanthocyanidins, found in highly coloured fruits and vegetables, protect blood vessels from wear and tear produced by free radical damage. Increasing foods rich in antioxidants can help to protect your cardiovascular system and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Best antioxidant food sources include: red peppers, orange peppers, carrots, peas, broccoli, sweet potato, beetroot, purple cabbage, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and blackberries.