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Blood Pressure Awareness Week - Know Your Numbers!

Around a third of people in the UK have high blood pressure (BP), but many don鈥檛 know it as there are often no symptoms. Risk factors for high blood pressure,...

Know Your Numbers! This Week is the UK's biggest blood pressure testing and awareness event. It runs from the 4th-10th September. This year the focus is on home blood pressure monitoring to find those with undiagnosed high blood pressure (1).

Around a third of people in the UK have high blood pressure (BP), but many don鈥檛 know it as there are often no symptoms. Risk factors for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, include age, race, family history, obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy dietary habits and inadequate intake of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. High blood pressure is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes.

A blood pressure (BP) reading consists of two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure is the top number and refers to the amount of pressure experienced by the arteries while the heart is beating
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number and refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries while the heart is resting in between heartbeats.

A healthy blood pressure reading for adults is usually below 120/80, which is reported as 鈥120 over 80.鈥 Children and teens may have slightly lower blood pressure. It may be normal for older adults to have slightly higher or lower blood pressure.

Both numbers give important information about your health. However, your healthcare provider might give more importance to high systolic pressure to determine your risk of heart disease.

Knowing your numbers means you can start making healthy lifestyle changes to bring your blood pressure down to a healthy level.

This year, the aim is for everyone to know their numbers. The campaign will:

  • encourage the nation to use a simple blood pressure monitor to measure their blood pressure at home and to take the necessary steps if their reading is high.
  • raise awareness about the risks of high blood pressure.

Here we鈥檒l look at some diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations that could help to prevent high blood pressure and to normalise it if it is high.

Eating to Normalise Blood Pressure

Dietary modification is one of the cornerstones in the treatment of hypertension. For decades attention focused on reducing salt intake as the key lifestyle modification to lower blood pressure. However, salt reduction is only part of the picture. Current American and European guidelines recommend eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses and to decrease the consumption of red meat, sugar, and trans fats. A review of the evidence on dietary patterns associated with lower blood pressure (BP) found that the following dietary patterns may all lower blood pressure (2).:

  • The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) can lower BP as effectively or even more significantly than some antihypertensive drugs. The diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and fibre and low in red meat and sugar.
  • The Mediterranean diet also leads to a considerable reduction in BP.
  • Vegans and vegetarians have a lower prevalence of high blood pressure than omnivores.
  • Calorie restriction may decrease BP (2).
  • Intermittent Fasting may be effective (3).
  • Potassium rich fresh fruit and vegetables are recommended. Potassium content is reduced when foods are canned or frozen.

The effects of diet on blood pressure are mediated by weight loss, reduction of inflammation, increased insulin sensitivity, and antihypertensive properties of some individual nutrients.


Lifestyle to Lower Blood Pressure

  • Smoking is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop.
  • Alcohol consumption can be a risk factor. Have 4 or 5 alcohol free days a week and avoid binge drinking.
  • Weight loss can help those carrying excess weight, especially round the middle of the body.
  • Learn to manage stress - yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises and meditation may all help (4).

Nutrients for Healthy Blood Pressure

Blood pressure may be lowered by certain nutraceuticals such as beetroot juice, catechin rich beverages, lycopene and soy isoflavones (2,5). Licorice increases blood pressure (3).

The following supplements from Tom Oliver Nutrition may be helpful:

Magnesium - low dietary magnesium intake is associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension. Magnesium supplementation has blood pressure-lowering effects (6).


Vitamin C - increased vitamin C intake, vitamin C supplementation, and higher blood concentrations of vitamin C are associated with lower blood pressure (7).

Zinc - essential for more than 300 enzymes and 2000 transcription factors in the body. Zinc has important roles in the cardiovascular system (8) and may reduce systolic blood pressure (9).

Omega 3 fats - a meta-analysis found that the optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) for lowering BP is between 2g and 3g a day. Doses above 3g a day may be associated with additional benefits in lowering BP among groups at high risk for cardiovascular diseases (10).

Whey Protein - a meta-analysis found that whey protein significantly reduced systolic blood pressure (11).聽

References

  1. https://www.bloodpressureuk.org/
  2. Kardiol Pol. 2020 Aug 25;78(7-8):659-666. Dietary interventions in blood pressure lowering: current evidence in 2020. Larysa Strilchuk et al.
  3. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 3;12(6):1659. Bioactive Compounds and Their Effect on Blood Pressure-A Review. Bartosz Malinowski et al.
  4. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2016 Sep;10(5):237-263. Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent and Control Hypertension. Samadian F et al.
  5. High Blood Press Cardiovasc Prev. 2021 Nov;28(6):547-553. Dietary Intervention to Improve Blood Pressure Control: Beyond Salt Restriction. Arrigo FG Cicero et al.
  6. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2016 Sep;10(5):237-263. Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent and Control Hypertension. Fariba Samadian et al. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2018 May;25(3):244-250. Magnesium and Blood Pressure: A Physiology-Based Approach. Joelle C Schutten et al.
  7. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;66(4):411-8. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. L Kass et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;95(5):1079-88. Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. SP Juraschek et al.
  8. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2023 Apr;201(4):1615-1626. Cardiovascular Diseases and Zinc. Serhan Ozyildirim et al.
  9. Eur J Nutr. 2020 Aug;59(5):1815-1827. The effect of zinc supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials. Seyed Mohammed Mousavi et al.
  10. J Am Heart Assoc. 2022 Jun 7;11(11):e025071. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Intake and Blood Pressure: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Xin Zhang et al.

  1. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2023 May 26;S0939-4753(23)00208-9. The effects of whey protein on blood pressure: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Vajdi M et al.

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