High blood pressure happens when the force of blood pushing against a person’s artery walls is consistently too high. This means that a person’s heart heart has to work harder to pump blood around their body. If left untreated, it can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as a heart attack. Poor dietary decisions are a primary cause of high blood pressure.
Too much salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream
Rob Hobson, director of nutrition, Healthspan
According to Rob Hobson, director of nutrition at Healthspan, these are the worst culprits:
High salt intake is one of the biggest causes of high blood pressure.
As Hobson explained: “Too much salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream upsetting the balance with potassium which helps the kidneys to remove water from the body.
“The extra fluid causes higher blood pressure affecting kidney, brain and heart health.”
Processed foods often contain a high salt content, warns Hobson.
According to the NHS, people should also cut down on the following foods:
- Gravy granules
- Salted and dry-roasted nuts
- Salted fish
- Smoked meat and fish
- Soy sauce
- Stock cubes
- Yeast extract
“Aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful,” advised the health site.
Sugar in all its forms
As Hobson explains, excessive sugar intake is associated with weight gain and obesity – major risk factors of high blood pressure.
“Free sugars are the issue, and these are those found in table sugar and all sweeteners, including honey, agave and maple syrup,” he said.
According to the British Heart Foundation, free sugar is any sugar added to a food or drink. “Extra sugar means extra calories and eating too many calories can lead to obesity,” explained the health body.
Consuming high amounts of saturated fat can increase a person’s LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, warns Hobson. LDL cholesterol is the unhealthy kind of cholesterol that can damage a person’s arteries, contribute to heart disease and increase their risk of having a stroke.
According to the NHS, foods high in saturated fat include:
- Meat pies
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil
According to Hobson, even though a (small) glass of red wine has been associated with helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, alcohol is a far cry from a healthy option.
“The reality is that most drinkers will drink more than a 125ml glass of red wine in a single sitting and many binge drink on the weekends,” he said.
Excessive alcohol intake can lead to weight gain which raises blood pressure, warns Hobson.
He added: “According to research, more than three drinks in a single sitting can temporarily increase blood pressure while habitual drinking can lead to more long-term blood pressure issues.”
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