High blood pressure, a condition whereby an unsustainable force is pushing against your artery walls, doesn’t produce any outward signs. This makes the condition deceptively lethal because your artery walls gradually thicken in response. This lays the groundwork for a heart attack to happen later on.
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The only way to determine whether your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
As the NHS explains, your blood pressure is recorded with two numbers – systolic pressure (higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower number).
The former is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body and latter represents the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
- High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
- Ideal or normal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
If it is determined that your blood pressure is too high, your GP will usually suggest you make healthy lifestyle changes to lower it.
Diet plays a key role in reducing high blood pressure and certain items have been singled out for their heart-healthy benefits.
One in notable example is drinking cherry juice made from tart Montmorency cherries, also known as sour or dwarf cherries.
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Findings published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that men with early signs of hypertension – another term for high blood pressure – saw a seven percent reduction in blood pressure after drinking Montmorency cherry concentrate when compared to drinking a fruit-flavoured cordial.
This reduction is comparable to the level achieved by anti-hypertensive medication.
Researchers from Northumbria University’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation worked with fifteen participants who were displaying early hypertension with blood pressure readings of at least 130/90 mmHg, a threshold that puts you at a higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular related problems.
They were told that the study was to investigate the effect of a fruit juice on vascular function and were given either 60ml of a Montmorency cherry concentrate or the same amount of a commercially available fruit-flavoured cordial.
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Blood pressure and blood samples were taken before the cherry concentrate was consumed and blood pressure was measured on an hourly basis thereafter.
Blood samples and a series of other cardiovascular screening tests were taken again on a regular basis over the following eight hours.
The researchers found that the participants who were given the cherry concentrate saw a peak reduction in their blood pressure of seven mmHg in the three hours after consuming the drink.
Interestingly, those participants with blood pressure levels at the higher end of the scale saw the most benefit.
It is important to note that you should not simply rely on a single item to lower your reading but adopting an overall healthy approach is what counts.
According to the NHS, general lifestyle improvements include:
- Cut your salt intake to less than six grams (0.2oz) a day, which is about a teaspoonful
- Eat a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Be active
- Cut down on alcohol
- Lose weight
- Drink less caffeine – found in coffee, tea and cola
- Stop smoking
“You can take these steps today, regardless of whether or not you’re taking blood pressure medicines,” notes the NHS.
It adds: “In fact, by making these changes early on you may be able to avoid needing medicines.”
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