High blood pressure: Include this snack in your diet to lower your reading12/11/2019
High blood pressure means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. While the condition doesn’t pose any health risks in the early stages, overtime, a consistently high blood pressure reading can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke.
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Diet plays an essential role in lowering blood pressure and a growing body of evidence recommends certain foods for their blood pressure-lowering properties.
One study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, makes a strong case for supplementing a diet low in saturated fats with walnuts to help lower blood pressure.
In a randomised, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese. Eating a diet high in saturated fat is associated with raised levels of non-HDL (bad) cholesterol, a waxy substance found in your blood that is tied to cardiovascular complications, explains the British Heart Foundation.
They found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.
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According to the researchers, central pressure is the pressure that is exerted on organs like the heart. This measure provides information about a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The association between walnuts and a lower risk of CVD is significant in light of the fact that CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK.
Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State said: “When participants ate whole walnuts, they saw greater benefits than when they consumed a diet with a similar fatty acid profile as walnuts without eating the nut itself.
Kris-Etherton added: “So it seems like there’s a little something extra in walnuts that are beneficial – maybe their bioactive compounds, maybe the fibre, maybe something else – that you don’t get in the fatty acids alone.”
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For the study, the researchers recruited 45 participants who were overweight or obese and between the ages of 30 and 65.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, and the diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of ALA and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.
The researchers found that while all treatment diets had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, and diastolic pressure is when your heart rests between beats, explains the NHS.
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Other dietary tips to lower your reading
According to Blood Pressure UK, eating too much salt is the biggest cause of high blood pressure so reducing your intake is essential to controlling blood pressure.
“To avoid hidden salt and cut down your salt intake, it is best to eat foods that are low in salt and stop using salt when cooking or at the table,” advises the health body.
The NHS says to aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure, as Mayo Clinic explained: “A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
According to the health site, becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of four to nine millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), that’s as effective as some blood pressure medications.
It added: “For some people, getting some exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication.”
To reap the optimal health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week, advises the NHS.
Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic activity, including:
- Household chores, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, gardening or scrubbing the floor
- Active sports, such as basketball or tennis
- Climbing stairs
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