With the World health organisation estimating that over 12.8% of deaths are caused by raised blood pressure it is an aspect of your health that you should never overlook. Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor in coronary heart disease and stroke related deaths.
To get to grips about blood pressure here are a few things you need to know…
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:
Systolic pressure- the pressure when your heart pumps blood out
Diastolic pressure- the pressure when your heart rests between beats
For example, if your blood pressure is “130 over 90” or 130/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 130mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.
As a general rule:
• ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
• high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
• low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
High blood pressure or hypertension is very often linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and not exercising enough. As a general guide you are classed as having high blood pressure if the reading is anywhere over 140/90 mmHg and unfortunately it is rare that there will be signs of high blood pressure so make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly. Adults over 40 should definitely get their blood pressure checked at least once every 5 years. Blood pressure can be checked at a number of places including your G.P., local pharmacy, and sometimes in your work place.
Low blood pressure or hypotension is less common and can become a result of the use of some medication. If your blood pressure drops to low it can cause a number of symptoms although this is quite rare, if you feel dizzy, faint or unsteady this could be signs of low blood pressure. Low blood pressure can occur for many reasons including:
Time of day- blood pressure is normally lower overnight while you’re sleeping, rises a few hours before you wake up, and continues to rise during the day, reaching its highest mid-afternoon.
How much you exercise- Exercise increases blood pressure short term (while exercising) however if you exercise regularly it can reduce your blood pressure over time.
Temperature- Warmer temperatures can cause blood pressure to decrease
Stress and relaxation- The more relaxed you are the lower your blood pressure becomes.
Medication- Some medication can cause a lower than normal blood pressure including alpha and beta blockers, angiotensin, diuretics and some antidepressants.
Diet approach to reducing high blood pressure
Research has shown that DASH (dietary approach to stop Hypertension) lowers blood pressure in a similar way that prescribed medication can. A research study conducted over a 2 month period showed that individuals reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of 11.4mmHg and an average diastolic blood pressure reduction of 5.5mmHg. This is significant as for every 2 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure, typically lowers coronary heart disease risk by 5% and risk of stroke by 8%. The DASH diet focusses on the importance of fruits vegetables and dairy products and avoids fats.
The below example of a DASH diet consist of approximately 2100 kCal per day which would maintain the weight of an individual who weighs around 10 stone 7lb, or 68 kg and who is moderately active. If you are following this diet and weigh more than the stated weight and want to maintain this weight but lower blood pressure then you simply increase servings or increase portion size. Same applies for people who are lighter or less physically active, eat fewer servings but no less than the minimum for each range shown in the below example.
|DASH Diet Sample (2100kCal)|
Whole wheat bread
Low-fat chicken salad
Raw veg mix
Carrot and celery sticks
Low fat mozzarella
1 ½ slices
Light Italian salad dressing
Whole wheat roll
1 cup (equals 2 servings)
Mixed nuts (unsalted)