High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls exceeds a threshold that may cause health problems, such as heart disease. The trouble is, high blood pressure rarely reveals any outward signs, so lifestyle interventions must be taken to keep the condition in check. Diet is an essential component of blood pressure control, with certain food groups proving more effective than others at lowering your reading.
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Evidence suggests drinking low-fat milk, for example, may keep the risk of developing high blood pressure at bay.
This is the key takeaway of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which sought to investigate the relationship between dairy products consumed and overall risk of high blood pressure.
The study, followed 2245 people aged 55 or older over six years, to see if there was a clear relationship.
Participants were grouped into five categories – “low-fat dairy”, “high-fat dairy”, “milk and milk products”, “cheese and cheese products”, and “fermented dairy”.
The study found that people who consumed more quantities of dairy, particularly low-fat dairy, had a much lower risk of high blood pressure over two years.
When followed up again after six years, the risk reduction was lower but still present for people who ate more low-fat dairy.
A particularly significant finding was that consumption of milk and milk products seemed to be related to keeping blood pressure lowered, whereas consuming cheese and cheese products showed no such relationship.
According to Blood Pressure UK, the blood-pressure lowering benefits of consuming dairy products may be attributed to the “active ingredients” found in dairy that lowers blood pressure – proteins, peptides, or minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium – but none of these have been demonstrated conclusively in research.
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For optimal results, the health body recommends consuming low-fat dairy products as part of healthy diet.
It says: “Eating products that are lower in fat (and lower in saturated fat) will help you keep to a healthy weight and may also lower your risk of high cholesterol, so dairy should form an important part of your daily diet.”
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood that produces similar effects to high blood pressure.
A build up of cholesterol in your arteries can cause them to lose their stretchiness and narrow, hiking your risk of developing heart disease.
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Other key dietary tips
Another tried-and-tested way to keep your blood pressure under control is to limit your salt intake because the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.
The NHS advises eating less than six grams (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
Eating a diet low in fat and salt can also help you to lose weight, another key aspect of blood pressure control.
Why does being overweight cause your blood pressure to rise?
The NHS explains: “Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.”
Another effective way to keep your weight in check while staving off the risk of high blood pressure is to engage in regular exercise.
“Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition,” explains the NHS.
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, says the health body.
Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening.
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