How Your Diet Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure
At menopause high blood pressure becomes more common, for a variety of reasons, but your diet plays a part in reducing it.
Menopause often sees blood pressure rise at menopause though it may be due to hormonal factors or the fact that women do put on weight at this time, and that is an increased risk factor.
Getting hormonal weight gain under control is a good start, and so too is looking at what you can do to help yourself.
A new approach to your diet
I have mentioned the DASH diet before as it is effective for weight loss, but it was originally designed to help reduce blood pressure.
DASH is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and it’s not a diet so much as a healthy way of eating but it can certainly help you lose weight.
The shorthand note is you cut back on salt, load up on fruit and vegetables, and round out your meals with whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, pulses and beans, and low-fat dairy.
So what are the specifics that will really help you lower your blood pressure through your diet?
Go green and leafy
Salt makes your body retain fluid and that pushes up your blood volume and the pressure on your arteries, which make your blood pressure climb.
Have good helpings of leafy greens like spinach, broccoli or kale for a potassium boost. The mineral helps flush sodium out of your body through your urine and relaxes your blood vessel walls.
Berries are good for you
The pigments that give blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries their rich colors also come with a benefit for your blood vessels: anthocyanin.
This is a a natural compound that can help artery walls become wider and more flexible to lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Fresh in season, but frozen is fine too.
Calcium helps your blood vessels tighten and relax when they should and that aids blood pressure.
Plain, low-fat yoghurt is a good way to add calcium in your diet without too much added sugar or fat.
Another good source of calcium and tinned salmon or sardines are both good as you can eat the bones.
Oily fish are also high in omega-3s, the fatty acids that boost health and help your heart. Studies on fish oil supplements show they may lower your blood pressure, especially if your high blood pressure is moderate or severe.
Seeds for mineral boost
Add unsalted seeds like pumpkin, flax, and sunflower to salads, yogurt, or porridge to help lower your blood pressure.
Seeds are a source of vital minerals like magnesium, which helps control your blood pressure and relax your blood vessels.
This whole grain is healthy, filling, and low in salt. It’s also full of fibre, which helps keep your weight and blood pressure under control.
Cook them with water or low-fat milk to keep the calories down for your morning porridge and add raisins or bananas for a touch of sweetness rather than sugar.
Benefits of beetroot
A study shows that drinking 2 cups of a mix of three parts beetroot and one part apple juice can make your systolic blood pressure (the top number) go down in just a few hours.
Men may see a bigger benefit than women, but worth trying as high systolic pressure can raise your chances of strokes.
As well as juice add cooked or raw beetroot to salad and stews.
Garlic has a number of health benefits but may play a part in boosting your nitric oxide levels, which dilates blood vessels.
The more relaxed your blood vessels are, the less your heart has to work to pump blood through them. That helps keep your blood pressure down.
Unsalted nuts like walnuts and almonds can be a great source of healthy fats that help your heart.
This has become a popular juice, and drinking it juice regularly may help lower your blood pressure numbers.
Check the label for added sugar and as juices don’t have the fibre you get from the fruit increase your intake from other sources.
The polyphenols, which are protective antioxidants, in olive oil make it a healthy heart choice.
Polyphenols improve blood vessel health and help them stay elastic so use it instead of butter or other oils in your cooking.
Pulses and beans
A daily cup of peas, lentils or beans can keep your blood pressure in check and even lower it.
They are full of fibre and can help ward off coronary heart disease, too.
One that has at least 50% to 70% cocoa can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanols.
As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch so a little bit of chocolate is all you need if watching your weight too.
What else can you do?
If you have high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure, a healthy diet can help you manage your condition or prevent it.
But that’s not the whole picture as you also need to stay at a healthy weight, exercise, and check for hormone balance and oestrogen dominance that can be related to weight gain.
In women, oestrogen dominance and oral contraceptives are the major cause of hypertension. Oestrogen and progestins adversely affect cell membranes resulting in sodium and water influx into cells (causing water retention) and loss of potassium and magnesium.
In women not on the Pill it is usually associated with low progesterone so the following may be helpful:
When supplemental Progesterone is used the weight usually goes down as this excess water is excreted and the BP returns to normal.