Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure
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If someone has high blood pressure – or hypertension – it means their heart has to work harder than usual to get blood circulating around the body. Over time this puts extra strain on vital organs and can result in medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, keeping your blood pressure low through lifestyle choices could be lifesaving.
Like many medical conditions, high blood pressure is influenced by multiple factors.
These include being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
However, what you eat plays a major role as well.
Salt is well known as a cause of high blood pressure.
This is because sodium makes the body hold on to water, putting pressure on blood vessel walls.
As a result, people with or at risk of high blood pressure are constantly reminded to cut down on their salt intake.
But adding more of a certain mineral is another way to help mitigate the impact of salt on your body.
Potassium not only helps the body process and get rid of sodium but it also helps to relax blood vessel walls.
One potassium-rich food recommended by the American Heart Association to help lower blood pressure is butter beans – also known as lima beans.
For every 100 grams of butter beans there are 508 milligrams (mg) of potassium.
This is higher than the 358mg of potassium found in the equivalent amount of banana, which is commonly cited as a good source of potassium.
What does research say about potassium?
One study, published in the British Medical Journal, backs the use of a high-potassium diet to lower blood pressure.
The analysis considered 22 existing trials, which involved more than 1,600 participants.
It concluded: “High quality evidence shows that increased potassium intake reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension and has no adverse effect on blood lipid concentrations, catecholamine concentrations, or renal function in adults.
“Higher potassium intake was associated with a 24 percent lower risk of stroke (moderate quality evidence).
“These results suggest that increased potassium intake is potentially beneficial to most people without impaired renal handling of potassium for the prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and stroke.”
A separate meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that an “adequate” intake of potassium could lower blood pressure.
“We identified a nonlinear relationship between potassium intake and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, although estimates for blood pressure effects of high potassium intakes should be interpreted with caution because of limited availability of trials,” the paper said.
“Our findings indicate an adequate intake of potassium is desirable to achieve a lower blood pressure level but suggest excessive potassium supplementation should be avoided, particularly in specific subgroups.”
According to the NHS the average adult needs around 3,500mg of potassium a day but this should be attainable through diet alone.
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