Blood Pressure And Diet

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating over 12.8% of deaths are caused by raised blood pressure, it is an aspect of your health that you should never overlook. Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor in coronary heart disease and stroke related deaths. The lean approach to health, food and fitness encourages us to be proactive, preventing defects to our body and having the flexibility of mind to chop and change our eating habits in line with our level of health. When it comes to how we choose to eat and exercise, eating the correct foods to improve the quality of our health is a no brainer.

First, we need to get to grips about blood pressure here and here are a few things you need to know. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:

  • Systolic pressure- the pressure when your heart pumps blood out
  • Diastolic pressure- the pressure when your heart rests between beats

For example, if your blood pressure is “130 over 90” or 130/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 130mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.

As a general rule:

  • ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower

If you have worked hard to be deemed as a very fit individual, typical blood pressure can drop in the range of 4-12mmHg diastolic and 3-6 mmHg systolic. Fitter people will tend to have a lower blood pressure than sedentary individuals as a rule.

High blood pressure or hypertension is very often linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and not exercising enough. As a general guide you are classed as having high blood pressure if the reading is anywhere over 140/90 mmHg. Unfortunately, it is rare to get signs of high blood pressure so make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly, especially if you are over the age of 40.

As stated, Being Lean involves being proactive, preventing defects to your body PLUS in this instance, minimising wasted trips to your GP. If you have or are on the cusp of being susceptible to hypertension, buying your own blood pressure monitor might be a small investment worth considering, but do your own business case to decide.

Owning your own blood pressure monitor allows you to take responsibility for your own health and proactively correct this should your blood pressure require slight adjustments. While embarking on your lean journey and indeed throughout, record blood pressure as part of your data collection for analysis in your set of SMART performance measures. This again encourages correct behavior and taking ownership for your own health. Boots & Amazon are a couple of places you can find reputable and affordable blood pressure monitors

Low blood pressure or hypotension is less common and can become a result of the use of some medication or perhaps more commonly overtraining in a short period of time. If your blood pressure drops too low, it can cause a number of symptoms. Although this is quite rare, if you feel dizzy, faint or unsteady this could be signs of low blood pressure. Low blood pressure can occur for many reasons including:

Time of day- blood pressure is normally lower overnight while you are sleeping, rises a few hours before you wake up, and continues to rise during the day, reaching its highest mid-afternoon.

How much you exercise- Exercise increases blood pressure short term (while exercising) however if you exercise regularly it can reduce your blood pressure over time.

Temperature- Warmer temperatures can cause blood pressure to decrease

Stress and relaxation- The more relaxed you are the lower your blood pressure becomes.

Medication- Some medication can cause a lower-than-normal blood pressure including alpha and beta blockers, angiotensin, diuretics and some antidepressants.

Dietary Approach to Reducing High Blood Pressure

Research has shown that a dietary approach to stop Hypertension lowers blood pressure in a similar way that prescribed medication can. A research study conducted over a 2 month period showed that individuals reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of 11.4mmHg and an average diastolic blood pressure reduction of 5.5mmHg. This is significant as for every 2 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure, typically lowers coronary heart disease risk by 5% and risk of stroke by 8%. The focus is on the importance of fruits, vegetables and dairy products and avoids fats. Cliché, classic but relevant and important.

The below example consists of approximately 2100 kCal per day which would maintain the weight of an individual who weighs around 10 stone 7lb, or 68 kg and who is moderately active. If you are following this diet and weigh more than the stated weight and want to maintain this weight but lower blood pressure then you simply increase servings or increase portion size. Same applies for people who are lighter or less physically active, eat fewer servings but no less than the minimum for each range shown in the below example.