Blood Pressure and Diet
High blood pressure is the biggest known cause of disability and premature death through stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
Healthy Eatiing and Blood Pressure:
What you eat and drink can have a real effect on the health of your heart and blood vessels. A healthy diet will help to keep them in good shape, reducing your risk of future health problems. What you eat and drink can also directly affect your blood pressure. In general, the healthier your diet is, the lower your blood pressure will be. To help keep your blood pressure down, it is important to keep to a healthy diet. If you have high blood pressure, it is even more important to look closely at your diet. If you make healthy changes to what you eat and drink, this can help to lower your blood pressure. If you take medicines for your blood pressure, a healthy diet can help these to work better, and can reduce the amount of medicines you need. For a few people, changing to a healthy lifestyle will help them to avoid medicines altogether.
To help lower your blood pressure you should try to:
- eat less than 6 gms of salt/day
- eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- drink no more than two units of alchol a day
- avoid foods that contain a lot of saturated fat
Salt makes your body hold on to water. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body will raise your blood pressure. An adult should eat no more than six grams of salt a day, but most of us eat almost twice that amount. Most of the salt we eat is not what we add to cooking or at the table. Around 80% of the salt we eat is in prepared foods like bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits and ready meals.
Check food labels to see how much salt the food contains. Labels may tell you the amount of salt in each pack, in each portion, or in every 100g. Some labels may not say how much salt the food contains, but they may say how much sodium it contains. Sodium is one of the chemicals in salt, and one gram of sodium is equal to two-and-a-half grams of salt. If the label does not say how much salt the food contains, look at the ingredients list. The closer to the top of the list salt is, the more salt the food is likely to contain.
Amount of Salt per 100gms
- 0.3g or less - Eat plenty of these
- 0.3g to 1.5g - Eat small amounts occasionally
- 1.5g or more - Avoid these completely
10 Ways to eat less salt:
- Don’t add salt when cooking. This includes things like soy sauce,curry powders and stock cubes.
- Get extra flavour with herbs and spices,and from seasonings like chilli, ginger,lemon or lime juice.
- Table sauces like ketchup, mustard and pickles can contain a lot of salt. Check the label and choose low-salt options.
- Bread and breakfast cereals can contain a lot of salt. Check the labels to compare brands.
- Smoked meats and fish contain a lot of salt. Avoid these if you can.
- If you are eating out, ask if your meal can be made with less salt. This may not be possible, but it is always worth asking.
- If you really want a salty favour, use a small amount of low-sodium salt substitute. If you have kidney problems or diabetes, check with your doctor or nurse first.
- Look out for low-salt recipes. There are a number of low-salt cookbooksavailable, or you can search for recipes on the internet.
- Don’t be too concerned about the exact amount of salt you eat. Six grams a day is the recommended maximum, and the less you eat the better.
- At first, food without salt can taste bland, but don’t give up. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt.
10 Ways to get the best from fruit and vegetables:
- Don’t buy fruit and vegetable dishes that come with sauces. They often contain a lot of fat, salt and sugar.
- Dried, frozen and tinned products can be just as good as fresh, but watch out for added salt, sugar or fats.
- Vary the types of fruit and vegetables you eat. Each has different health benefits and it will keep your meals interesting.
- Don’t add sugar to fruit or salt to vegetables when you cook or serve them.
- Vegetables keep more of their vitamins and minerals if you lightly steam or bake them, instead of boiling or frying them.
- If you boil vegetables, use as little water as possible to help keep the vitamins and minerals in them.
- Experiment with other ways of cooking vegetables, such as roasting or grilling them, for new tastes and flavours.
- Stir-fries are great for getting lots of vegetables into one meal. So are freshly-made soups.
- Make fruit smoothies with lots of fresh fruit and low-fat milk or yoghurt.
- Replace sweet snacks, such as chocolate or biscuits, with fruit or raw vegetables.
If you drink too much alcohol, this will raise your blood pressure over time. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which can cause you to gain weight. This will also increase your blood pressure. If you keep to the recommended limits for alcohol, this will help to keep your blood pressure down. The current recommended limits are 21 units of alcohol a week for men, and 14 units a week for women.
How many units are in what you drink?
Single measure of spirits (25ml) 1 unit
Pint of normal-strength beer 2 units
Medium glass of wine (175ml) 2 units
Large glass of wine (250ml) 3 units
Pint of strong beer 4 units
A low-fat diet can help you keep to a healthy weight, which in turn will help keep your blood pressure down.
A diet that is low in fat can also help you keep down the level of cholesterol in your blood. Too much cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, so if you have high blood pressure it is very important to keep your cholesterol levels low.
Types of fat
Avoid eating too much saturated fat. This is usually found in red meats, butter, palm oil or ghee.
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Unlike saturated fat, these fats will not raise your cholesterol levels. However they will still cause you to gain weight if you eat too much.
Amount of fat per 100g
Less than 3g total fat or 1g saturated fat - These foods are a good choice
Between 3–20g total fat or 1–5g saturated fat - Eat small amounts occasionally
More than 20g total fat or 5g saturated fat - Avoid these completely
Making healthy eating part of your life
It is one thing to know that a healthy diet will help your blood pressure. It is another thing to be able to make all the changes you need, and to stick with them. Here are some tips from other people with high blood pressure which may help you.
- ‘Learn more about your food. Check the labels and make more meals from scratch so you know what you’re eating.’
- ‘Don’t think about ‘giving things up’ but about trying new things instead. Experiment with new flavours and try new things.’
- ‘Get the family involved. Nothing is worse than being surrounded by people who are eating the things you can’t have.’
- ‘Plan ahead for meals and snacks. Make sure you have healthy food nearby to stop you reaching for salty or fatty foods.’
- ‘Be sensible, and don’t try to do everything at once. Take small steps and build on them as you go along.’
If you want to lower your blood pressure through a healthy diet, it is really important to stick to the changes. In a few weeks you will get used to the new tastes and flavours, and you will also see the difference it makes to your blood pressure.