High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high. Over time, this puts strain on your heart and other vital organs, which can precipitate life-threatening complications, such as a heart attack or stroke. Reversing a high reading is therefore vital to starving off serious health problems.
Certain dietary items have proven particularly adept at lowering hypertension and one that has been singled out in research is hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea that’s made by steeping parts of the hibiscus plant in boiling water.
Hibiscus tea’s blood pressure-lowering prowess rivals blood pressure drugs, according to one study.
The study, which was presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting, found drinking three cups of the herbal tea yielded these results.
Most of the commercial herbal tea blends in the United States contain hibiscus,” said Diane L. McKay, PhD, of Tufts University in Boston.
McKay’s study included 65 healthy men and women with modestly elevated blood pressure.
Overall, drinking hibiscus tea blends were found to lower systolic blood pressure – the top number in the blood pressure reading – by an average of seven points.
That was significantly more than the one-point drop observed in people who were given a placebo in the form of hibiscus-flavoured water, McKay observed.
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While a seven-point drop in blood pressure might not seem like much, she said studies have shown that “even small changes in blood pressure … when maintained over time … will reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack”.
According to AHA president Robert H. Eckel, MD, who attended the study presentation, more research is needed to determine whether herbal tea’s blood-pressure-lowering effect can actually be sustained over the long haul.
However, the reduction associated with tea drinking in the study was comparable to standard blood pressure drugs, he added.
General dietary tips to lower high blood pressure
Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
“Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure,” warns the NHS.
According to the health body, you should aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure,” it adds.
“Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.”
Regular physical activity can also reduce a high reading.
The Mayo Clinic explains: “Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort.
“As a result, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
As the health body notes, regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight — another important way to control blood pressure.
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