It is a health issue that affects both young and old Australians alike, with more than 1 million Australians under 45 impacted.
Alarmingly it’s one of the leading risk factors for death and disability in Australia, as well as across the world.
One the easiest steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure is diet.
The foods we choose everyday are important for our heart health. Research into high blood pressure shows us that an eating pattern with these five foods helps to lower blood pressure.
But don’t worry, we’ve done the heavy lifting and read the research, all you need to do is read on. The following foods are your best bets in beating high blood pressure– based on the science.
Beetroots have been the superstar of late. But don’t think that beetroot is the only vegetable of importance. Regularly having 4-5 serves of vegetables is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern, people who ate more vegetables and fruit compared to their regular diet (which was probably low in these natural superfoods) had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.
Choose a variety of types and colours of fruit and vegetables. The different colours offer different healthy nutrients. Read here for more information on what a serve is and ways to get more in your day
After reading about vegetables, it’s no surprise their partner fruit features in a healthy eating pattern for blood pressure. Like vegetables, fruit is a rich source of potassium, magnesium and fibre.
Include a handful of frozen and washed berries on your yogurt or a piece of fruit with nuts as a 3pm pick me up.
Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit and vegetables all count towards your daily amount. Frozen and canned vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh. Read the nutrition information panel to avoid added salt and added sugar in these varieties, and check out our tips on storing fresh fruit and vegetables.
This may be more surprising given some fad diets swear wholegrains are toxic or not natural to eat. But regular consumption of wholegrains as part of the DASH diet demonstrated significant reductions in blood pressure. This is no surprise to us here at the Heart Foundation - we know high intake of wholegrains is linked to a 30% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Choose wholegrain versions of your regular foods: wholegrain bread, wholegrain or high fibre breakfast cereal like rolled oats, porridge, whole wheat biscuits or untoasted muesli.
Low fat dairy
Combining the vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain choices in the DASH diet with low fat dairy was linked to greater reductions in blood pressure than increasing fruit and veg intake alone.
Choose reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt and look for ways to include these foods as a nourishing snack. Enjoy reduced fat plain yoghurt with a bowl of wholegrain cereal, topped with berries and nuts and you have a recipe for success. Add reduced fat cheese with tomato and avocado to wholegrain crackers for filling morning or afternoon snack.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious. Nuts and seeds provide healthy unsaturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Nuts, seeds and legumes are part of the DASH diet, so try and include some plain unsalted nuts and seeds in your meals every day. A serve of nuts or seeds is 30g, or a small handful.
An added bonus - regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood, and does not lead to weight gain.
Spice up your life.
Including these foods everyday will put you on a path to good health. More of these foods means less of the foods that may be too high in salt. Limiting your salt intake is important for your heart health, and the health of your blood vessels (which can be damaged by high blood pressure, which salt increases). Choose the above foods and know you’ll be automatically lowering your salt intake. When cooking, use different spices to bring out the flavour of your foods instead of salt.
What do we take away from this? Small changes count.
And several small changes can lead to big change, which is good news for our blood vessels and our hearts.