If you’ve been told you’ve got high blood pressure there are dietary recommendations to support lowering your blood pressure.
High blood pressure isn’t a disease in and of itself, it’s the body’s way of dealing with attacks on our cardiovascular system. High blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack and stroke so it’s really important to keep our blood pressure under control.
You don’t just wake up with chronic disease like diabetes or obesity, it’s a long term erosion of health through diet & lifestyle.
Causes of hypertension
There is no single cause for raised blood pressure, but being overweight or obese, eating lots of salt, lack of exercise, drinking a lot of alcohol and smoking can all contribute to raising your BP.
How food affects your blood pressure
So what is a diet to reduce blood pressure? What you eat and how you live has a huge impact on your blood pressure. Eating a diet high in salt, low in essential fatty acids like Omega 3, high sugar, low fibre, can cause your blood pressure to go up.
Seven Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure
- Stop smoking – if you’re a smoker this will make the biggest difference to your blood pressure.
- Reduce salt intake – aim for less than 6g per day, especially if you’re a woman over 60 as research has shown this group are more sensitive to salt in the diet. Don’t add salt to cooking water, or into your food, anything from a packet normally has salt and sugar already added! Try flavouring food with garlic, spices or pepper.
- Lose weight – if you are overweight your heart has to work harder to pump the blood round. Regular exercise can help reduce stress and will lower your blood pressure. 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week has been shown to improve cardiovascular health.
- Eat plants! – Eat a diet rich in plants (aim for 50% of your plate vegetables at each meal) to get all the brilliant benefits of a rainbow of vegetables full of fibre.
- Stress – when we’re stressed our blood pressure goes up, but we also are more likely to drink alcohol, reach for the sugary snacks or smoke if we’re stressed so there is a double whammy on the circulation system. Regular massage has been shown to lower BP if you need an excuse to book a treatment.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine or alcohol, and drink 2 litres of water a day. Caffeine may only have a temporary effect on the blood pressure, but it can have a wider impact on sleep cycles so aim to limit your intake to 1-2 cups a day. Alcohol will increase blood pressure and inflammation throughout the body.
- Balance your blood sugar levels – Some studies have shown a close correlation between raised blood pressure and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can start before diabetes, and is often linked to a diet high in simple carbs, sugar and fat. Read more about balancing your blood sugars.
If there is a lot of insulin in your body, it can cause magnesium levels to go down and calcium levels to go up which also increases blood pressure.
Seven Heart Healthy Foods
Foods which support the circulation and health of your heart are:
- Ginger – a great circulatory stimulant which is anti-inflammatory. Gingerols in ginger widen the blood vessels which can help reduce blood pressure, as well as enhancing circulation.
- Carrots have lots of beta carotene which is an anti-inflammatory compound known to support the cardiovascular system and gives it the orange colour.
- Garlic – helps the body reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) so useful if high LDL levels. Garlic also protects against strokes by reducing blood clotting factors. Aim for 4 cloves a day to support high blood pressure.
- Chilli – stimulates the circulation by relaxing the muscles in the blood vessels.
- Chickpeas are a good source of phytosterols which help to bind to cholesterol and carry it out of the body, they also contain magnesium which can help to lower blood pressure.
- Oily fish – Omega 3 rich fish like Mackerel, Herring, wild salmon and Sardines can reduce stiffness in the arteries and reduce inflammation throughout the body
- Quercetin is a flavonoid found in apples, red onions, leafy green veg like kale, pepper and berries. It can improve the function of our arteries
Blood Pressure Lowering Foods
Other top blood pressure lowering foods (as part of a dietary management approach for hypertension) include:
- Almonds (22g/day)
- Pistachios (59-120g/day)
- Grapes (250g/day)
- Blueberries (1 cup a day)
- Flaxseed (30g/day)
- Hibiscus tea (3 cups per day)
Want to know more about foods for a healthy heart? Call me to arrange an appointment
I can help you build a sustainable diet for long term health that will support cardiovascular health and help you feel fit and well. Let’s schedule a 15 minute chat to discuss your particular health goals. There is no obligation to book a consultation. Call to talk through how we can work together and what might help you and your health conditions.
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Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I specialise in all things ‘digestive health’ and I help people with their IBS symptoms.
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