How to improve your diet for lower blood pressure
Cardiology A few manageable tips on how to tweak your diet, improve your health and manage your blood pressure, from Consultant Dietitian Paula Mee.
Blood pressure in Ireland
More than half of all adults in Ireland over the age of 45 have high blood pressure – there is great need to take more care over our diet.
It is a significant independent risk factor for heart disease and one we shouldn’t neglect.
Sodium and potassium are the two important factors that keep our blood pressure in-check; maintaining a balance is important.
1. Lower your salt intake
“A simple change to your routine, such as replacing your salt shaker with alternatives like chilli flakes, pepper, or spices, can really lower your salt or sodium intake. After six weeks you will begin to really notice how sensitive you are to the taste of salt again,” says Mee.
While most are aware of the dangers of high-salt foods, such as crisps or nuts, some hidden sources go unnoticed. “Over 70 per cent of the salt we consume is in processed food. Check your trolley and see how much of your food items are processed compared to fresh.
Processed meats like sausage rolls, bacon, salami and pepporoni are particularly important to reduce for various health reasons,” said Mee.
2. Be potassium aware
“Include a good number of stir fried or steamed vegetables into your diet to increase your potassium intake,” says Mee. “Start the day with a solid foundation food like porridge oats and add something high in potassium like a banana or nuts – a good, heart-friendly start in the day, which hopefully encourages you to keep going.”
Awareness of your sodium and potassium balance is key. “Ask your doctor about how best to manage your blood pressure.” Losing 10 per cent of your weight can be hugely beneficial, if you are overweight. “A 10 per cent reduction in weight has been shown to have significant benefits for your blood cholesterol management too,” said Mee.
3. Consider alcohol's effect
“Another significant factor that impacts our blood pressure is alcohol, yet it’s often overlooked. Drinking a lot of alcohol can not only increase your blood pressure but also impacts food choice negatively, which can have an adverse affect on your weight and aggravate health problems,” says Mee.