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High blood pressure – a condition whereby the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high – comes in different types and they all have different causes. The type that most people is called primary hypertension and it doesn’t have a single cause. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure explained: “It comes down to a number of factors that can all add up such as growing older, your genes, family history and if you are from black or south Asian descent.”
The causes of primary hypertension may be hard to ascertain but the ways to manage it are less ambiguous.
Patently unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as eating an unhealthy diet and being overweight, can have an adverse impact on your blood pressure.
The key dietary offer is salt – a high salt diet disrupts the natural water balance in the body.
“This causes fluid retention which increases the pressure against your blood vessel walls,” explains Ms Jenner.
Partly what makes salt so lethal is that it creeps into the foods we eat often without us realising.
As Jenner explains, certain varieties of pesto and tomato ketchup can have a high salt content so you should opt for low salt varieties.
Other items to be weary of include:
- Bread, wraps, crumpets and croissants are all surprisingly high in salt
- Butter and margarine – choose ‘no added salt’
- Bacon and sausages plus other processed and long life meats
- Salad dressings including salad creams and mayonnaises
- Fried foods, especially those from takeaways
- Salted snacks like crisps, nuts and pretzels
- Readymade soups – compare the labels to choose less salt
- Fast foods such as pizza and Chinese food
- Certain meat-free products such as meat free burgers and sausages.
Another handy way to reduce your salt intake is to try seasoning food (without adding salt) with chili pepper, lemon, herbs and spices or low sodium salts like LoSalt, advises Ms Jenner.
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“There’s also an app called FoodSwitch which will find you healthier alternatives to the packaged products you find in shops,” she said.
How much salt should we eat daily?
According to UK health guidelines, adults should eat no more than six grams of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around one teaspoon.
- One to three years should eat no more than two grams salt a day (0.8g sodium)
- Four to six years should eat no more than three grams salt a day (1.2g sodium)
- Seven to 10 years should eat no more than five grams salt a day (2g sodium)
- 11 years and over should eat no more than six grams salt a day (2.4g sodium).
In addition to cutting back on salt, you should opt for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses like beans, peas and lentils, as well as wholegrains, to keep your blood pressure down, added Ms Jenner.
Other important tips to treat high blood pressure
In addition to eating healthily, you should engage in regular exercise to control your blood pressure.
“Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition,” explains the NHS.
What’s more, regular exercise can help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure, says the health body.
What is the optimal exercise?
According to Mayo Clinic, aerobic activity can be an effective way to control high blood pressure.
“But flexibility and strengthening exercises such as lifting weights are also important parts of an overall fitness plan,” says the health body.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit from aerobic activity.
“Simply adding moderate physical activities to your daily routine will help,” adds Mayo Clinic.
According to UK health guidelines, 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.
Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening.
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