High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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Your blood pressure naturally fluctuates but if it is consistently too high, it forces your heart to have to work harder. This extra effort can raise your risk of having a heart attack if left untreated. Fortunately, improving your diet provides a bulwark against high blood pressure.
Specific items have been shown to be adept at lowering high blood pressure, such garlic.
The popular herb has been linked to reductions in blood pressure in both animal and human studies.
A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to provide a more definitive conclusion on the effect of garlic preparations on blood pressure.
Researchers searched the Medline and Embase databases for studies published between 1955 and October 2007.
Randomised controlled trials with true placebo groups, using garlic-only preparations, and reporting mean systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure were included in the meta-analysis.
The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Eleven of 25 studies included in the systematic review were suitable for meta-analysis.
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Meta-analysis of all studies showed reductions in systolic pressure in the garlic group compared to placebo.
“Our meta-analysis suggests that garlic preparations are superior to placebo in reducing blood pressure in individuals with hypertension,” the researchers concluded.
The heart-healthy benefits of eating garlic
Garlic has long been associated with health benefits – from curing a cold to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), a chemical called allicin – a type of antioxidant – is thought to be responsible for its positive effects.
Crucially, garlic can add flavour to meals without adding salt, notes the BHF.
The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.
“But to address your risk of heart and circulatory diseases it’s important to think about your diet as a whole, rather than one ingredient,” adds the BHF.
According to the NHS, 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.
You should aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, advises the health body.
“Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time,” it warns.
Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
“Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure,” adds the NHS.
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