High blood pressure is a condition that describes the rate at which the force of blood travels through your arteries. While it is normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, high blood pressure means your heart is having to work harder than usual to pump blood around the body. This puts excess strain on your heart and the coronary arteries that supply it with blood.
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Over time, this process can hike your risk of developing heart disease so it is imperative to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.
One surefire way to control your blood pressure is to lead a healthy lifestyle, of which diet plays a key role.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but COVID-19, a deadly new disease, has upended people’s conventional lifestyles.
The current lockdown, which is aimed at stemming the spread of virus, has naturally caused many people to lapse out of their daily routine.
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As a result, people may be falling into unhealthy eating habits, which could send their blood pressure reading soarings.
The worst culprits for high blood pressure are foods high in salt so it is imperative to shun these items.
How does salt affect blood pressure?
Blood Pressure UK explains: “Salt makes your body retain water. If you eat too much, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure.”
The NHS recommends adults should eat no more than six grams of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around one teaspoon.
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In reality, many adults exceeded the daily amount because salt is often “hidden” in processed foods like bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals, and prepared ready meals or takeaways.
“This ‘hidden’ salt accounts for around 75 percent of the salt we eat, only 25 percent comes from the salt we add while cooking or at the table,” explains Blood Pressure UK.
To ward off the threat of high blood pressure, the NHS recommends cutting down on the following:
- Gravy granules
- Salted and dry-roasted nuts
- Salt fish
- Smoked meat and fish
- Soy sauce
- Stock cubes
- Yeast extract
Instead, you should opt for foods rich in potassium, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
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Potassium helps counter the harmful effects of salt by flushing it out of your system.
AHA explains: “The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine.
“Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.”
Good sources of potassium include potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, tomato sauce (without added salt or sugar), orange juice, tuna (fresh, frozen or tinned, but avoid tuna packed in brine), yoghurt and fat-free milk.
It is also important to capitalise on the one form of exercise the government has permitted you to do a day while in lockdown.
As the NHS explains, being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
“Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure,” says the NHS.
How much should you do to reap the 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,” it advises.
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