Question for the Expert: My doctor has said I have raised blood pressure, he told me to keep it in check but not how to, can you help?

Asked by April Kaye

Answer:

The most important ways to assist in reducing blood pressure include diet and exercise.

Exercise:
Although exercise initially increases your blood pressure whilst you are exercising, it will assist in reducing your blood pressure.  It provides both a physiological as well as a psychological effect, as exercise assists in reducing stress levels and stress is a large contributor to raised blood pressure.  A 30 to 60 minute exercise routine most days of the week will assist in reducing the blood pressure by 6 to 9 mmHg within a few weeks.  Remember that exercise also assists in weight reduction, and as a basic rule the more weight lost the more the blood pressure will drop.

Diet:
The most important point to remember regarding changing your diet regulating salt intake, as salt promotes water retention in the body and this increases our blood volume and hence our blood pressure.  It is very important to remove or at least minimise salt intake.  Salt also has a negative effect on our kidneys and a poor kidney function similarly results in water retention and hence raised blood pressure.
Foods which are rich in the key ingredients Magnesium and Potassium assist in reducing blood pressure by negating the effects of sodium. A green leafy diet assists in reducing blood pressure as it is not only high in fibre, but it also contains the Magnesium and Potassium needed to keep a check on blood pressure levels.  Potatoes, bananas, and beans are also high in Potassium and Magnesium and can assist in reducing blood pressure.
Skimmed milk contains calcium and vitamin D, and these substances similarly assist in reducing blood pressure.
Last but certainly not least, a 30 calorie portion of dark chocolate daily (>60% cocoa) assists in reducing blood pressure. 

Alcohol:
Alcohol is a very important contributor to raised blood pressure.  The more alcohol we drink the higher the risk of increasing our blood pressure.  Even halving your alcohol intake will have a tremendous effect on lowering your blood pressure level.  Reducing alcohol intake also significantly reduces weight, and as stated above, automatically reduces your blood pressure.

Dr Natasha Rennie MBChB

Written by: Dr Natasha Rennie MBChB, Women's Health Practitioner

Author: Rosamund Date: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 12:13

Thank you so much for this piece -- very helpful as my blood pressure swings wildly and am determined to manage it myself without the need to take medication. I had no idea that alcohol was a factor. Now another question regarding salt -- I always thought that the reason you added salt to the water in which you cook vegetables in is that it raised the boiling point of the water, which meant that the cooking time was reduced which in turn meant that there were less chance of nutrients leaching out into the water. So is it just salt added at the table that needs to be reduced?

Author: Editor Date: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 16:21

Thank you for your question Rosamund, this has been send to Dr Rennie and we will have an answer for you shortly.