High blood pressure affects one in four adults in the UK, according to government figures, but many people with the condition don’t know they have it. This is because symptoms are rarely noticeable. The best way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have your reading regularly checked, either by your GP or local pharmacist or using a blood pressure monitor yourself at home. If high blood pressure is left untreated, the arteries can begin to thicken and harden, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke happening. So what can you do to prevent or a reduce high blood pressure?
High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by eating healthily, says the NHS.
As a general rule it states: “Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
“Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.
“Aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure.
“Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.”
Specific foods have also been found to have blood pressure-lowering properties.
When it comes to an essential of many meals and cooking, oil, olive oil has proven effective at lowering blood pressure.
One study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, saw participants take either an olive leaf extract or a placebo each day.
After six weeks, the olive leaf group showed to have much lower blood pressure than the placebo group.
The polyphenols in olives are known for fighting inflammation and reducing blood pressure, which is also why olive oil is a key part of the DASH and Mediterranean diets.
The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is an eating plan based on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and choosing lean proteins, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and vegetables oils. Sweets and foods high in saturated fat should be avoided.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found men and women younger than 75 who most closely followed the DASh diet had a significantly lower risk of heart failure (high blood pressure can cause heart failure).
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Alongside eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, losing weight if overweight, limiting alcohol and stopping smoking are also recommended to lower blood pressure.