What is healthy blood pressure?
WHY IS BLOOD PRESSURE IMPORTANT?
Imagine a kink in a garden hose – it prevents water from moving through the hose as it should. As a result, the pressure behind the kink starts to build up until eventually something gives and the hose, the tap or the valves are damaged as the water seeks another way out.
Blood circulates through the blood vessels, like water passing through a hose. It is pushed around the body by the beating of the heart. If the blood is pumped at a pressure which is too high then it can cause damage to the blood vessels, potentially even causing them to burst. This is what happens when a person has a stroke.
WHAT IS HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE?
An ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80 – but what many people ask is, what does this actually mean?
The top figure in the blood pressure reading, known as the systolic blood pressure, is a measurement of how fast the blood is moving through the body when the heart has just beaten. It has just been pushed by the beat of the heart, so it will have a higher pressure.
The bottom figure is a measurement of how fast the blood is still circulating when the heart is still – thus it is a lower number.
Over the years doctors have determined the ideal pressure for health is 120/80. The more we exceed this reading, the greater the risk of damage to the blood vessels.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE FACTORS
There are a number of diet and lifestyle factors which can impact the blood pressure.
1. Engage with regular exercise – this does not have to mean running, just something which helps to keep you fit and active. This supports heart health and can help to keep blood pressure low.
2. Avoid adding salt to food – a high salt diet has been linked too an increase in the blood pressure. Therefore, anyone worried about their blood pressure should avoid adding salt to their cooking or their meal. It would also be a good idea to limit salty foods such as cheese, crisps, bacon and other processed meats.
3. Deal with stress – prolonged stress is known to cause an increase in the blood pressure, which is why relaxation techniques and exercises such as yoga or Pilates are often advocated to help reduce blood pressure.
4. Limit caffeine and alcohol – If we believe the headlines, one week they are good for the heart, the next they are not. The key with products like caffeine and alcohol is moderation – too much could have a negative impact.
NATURAL PRODUCTS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE
Many people will have seen the newspaper articles published over the years, highlighting the potential benefits of drinking beetroot juice or taking beetroot supplements. This is because much research has been carried out using concentrated beetroot, to see if it could naturally reduce blood pressure. A review of all these studies looked at the effects of beetroot supplements in over 254 people and concluded that beetroot supplements were associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Co-Enzyme-Q10 is used by every cell in the body to produce energy, so it is particularly important for the health of the heart and brain, as they need a lot of energy to function properly. For this reason, CO-Q-10 is another supplement which has been looked at by many scientists over the years, to see what potential benefits it could offer for heart health. A review of all these studies showed that it did appear to consistently reduce blood pressure in those who supplemented with at least 100mg CO-Q-10 each day.
None of this information is meant to replace medical advice provided by the doctor, nor is it intended that these supplements be used in place of any medications prescribed by the doctor.
These suggestions are intended for people who are wanting to take control of their blood pressure via dietary and natural means, before having to use medications.
Any changes to diet and lifestyle, particularly if you are using medications, should be done after discussions with your doctor.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed (Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years).