When it comes to diets and high blood pressure, one of the biggest culprits is of course salt (sodium). What happens when you consume a lot of salt is that the more sodium in your bloodsteam, the more water will accompany it, meaning a higher blood volume, and therefore higher blood pressure. Think of a garden hose, the more you twist the tap- adding extra water- the higher the pressure inside the hose.
What you might not know though, is that everyone is different in how “salt sensitive” they are, and this is largely due to genetics. Essentially, everyone will be different in how effectively their kidneys can clear away sodium from the blood, and the more salt sensitive you are the worse a job your kidneys do, and so therefore you have more sodium in your blood, and higher blood pressure. Somewhere between 15-50% of the population (varying with ethnicity) are salt sensitive, and will notice large affects on blood pressure with high sodium diets.
So does that mean the rest of us are free to use that salt shaker as we please?
The issue is that it’s not just one thing that causes high blood pressure. The other culprits include being overweight or obese, stress, smoking, not exercising, more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks a day, and becoming older. So the best way to manage your blood pressure?
1: Take steps to reduce your weight.
Even a 5kg drop in weight is enough to create a substantial decrease in blood pressure.
2: Get moving
Start with as little as 15-20 minutes a day, walking is a great starting point. Add on a few minutes, and in no time you’ll be hitting the 30 minutes a day that should be your minimum goal for health. Added bonus? Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever, so you can count this as a 2 for the price of 1 deal!
3: Ditch the smokes
Start with counting how many you have in a day, and then working to make small changes over time, gradually cutting down more and more. Even a small reduction will cause amazing health gains. If you’re struggling, speak to your doctor about other approaches to helping you quit.
4: Watch the alcohol
A wine or two now and then can creep up to three or more glasses every day very easily. Make sure you are measuring out standard drink portions, that wine glass filled to the brim is NOT one wine. 1 standard drink = 10g of alcohol.
375ml can full strength beer = 1.4 standard drinks
375ml mid strength beer = 1 standard drink
375ml light beer- 0.8 standard drinks
375ml can premix spirits 5% = 1.5 standard drinks
100ml white/red wine= 1 standard drink
150ml champagne = 1.4 standard drinks
30 ml (1 nip) spirits = 1 standard drink
Plus don’t forget, guidelines are for at least 1 alcohol free day a week.
5: Get your diet right
For more information on a complete approach to controlling hypertension, look into the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Hint- low sodium, low processed or high sugar foods, high potassium, lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate meat and low fat dairy.