High blood pressure? Can your diet really help?

All you need to know about eating with high blood pressure


Helen Cosgrove
@AVogelUK


14 May 2018

Is a DASH of salt all we really need?

If you’ve got high blood pressure the chances are you’ve heard of the DASH diet. The DASH diet (also known as Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) mainly consists of fruits, veg, low-fat dairy products and foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. According to research this type of diet is effective at reducing high blood pressure1 and is also recommended for the prevention of heart disease. 

What’s more, the DASH diet combined with low sodium (salt) intake is thought to be even more effective in reducing blood pressure. Reducing our intake of sodium can help because high quantities of salt results in more water binding to it, this is then thought to increase our blood pressure.

The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has risen in popularity over recent years – and for good reason! Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of heart disease, brain shrinkage, type-2 diabetes as well as high blood pressure!2 Another diet that is rich in fruit and veg, the Mediterranean diet also includes eating plenty of fresh, oily fish which contain lots of healthy fats that are good for your brain! 

Vegetable oils like olive oil, and sheep and goat’s milk are often used instead of cow’s milk. Lean meat is still eaten although sparingly, the majority of the produce eaten is organic and fresh with minimal chemicals and toxins interfering.

In relation to heart health and circulation, one study found that a Mediterranean diet could lower blood pressure as well as improve endothelial function (a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels and is responsible for vascular relaxation and contraction and normal blood clotting).3

6 important nutrients to consider for lowering high blood pressure:

1) Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in hundreds of chemical functions throughout the body including optimal muscle functioning, energy and mood regulation. When it comes to your cardiovascular health magnesium plays an important role here too! It helps to control high blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker, increases nitric oxide and improves endothelial function and induces vasodilation. Despite the importance of this mineral though and despite many dietary sources being available, many of us are deficient in magnesium. Between 500mg and 1000mg daily are thought to help significantly reduce systolic and diastolic pressure.

Although supplements of magnesium are widely available our body absorbs it better through magnesium-rich food like leafy greens. Eating it rather than supplementing it is also less likely to disrupt our digestive system as overloading it with too much magnesium at one time can sometimes result in bowel disturbance. 

2) Omega 3 fatty acids

According to research, omega 3 fatty acids are also beneficial for reducing blood pressure.4 In particular the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are of significance because they are thought to help with arterial stiffness. Other benefits are thought to be the activation of nitric oxide, producing vasodilatory prostaglandins, reducing insulin resistance and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. 

These main benefits of omega 3 are best achieved by eating oily fish twice a week. However, this isn’t very helpful if you’re vegan or vegetarian. Other sources of omega 3 also include seeds and nuts and fish oil supplements are also available and are sometimes worth considering if you needed a top up.

3) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also thought to help lower blood pressure. It is thought to have this effect by increasing nitric oxide, acting as a diuretic, assisting with regulation of the adrenal stress response as well as protecting blood vessels through collagen-supporting and antioxidant effects. Vitamin C’s actions as a diuretic stimulate the kidneys into removing more sodium from the body this, in turn, helps to relax the blood vessel walls thereby lowering blood pressure.5

4) Garlic

Garlic (yes the stuff you can find in your kitchen!) has a long standing history of traditional use for supporting cardiovascular health. If you’ve read my blog ‘6 fantastic foods to support high blood pressure’ you’ll know that garlic is one of my top recommendations! 

It supports healthy cholesterol levels as well as healthy blood pressure levels. Garlic has these effects through its sulphur compounds. Allicin in particular, is released when chewed or crushed, and is thought to be responsible not only for the characteristic garlicy smell, but also for garlic’s heart health benefits.

Don’t worry if the thought of garlic breath sends you running for the hills – the amazing benefits of this food can be found in both food and supplement format! If you want to avoid that tell-tale smell then I’d definitely suggest Jan de Vries’ Hawthorn Garlic Complex Capsules. Not only are these capsules made from organically cultivated garlic, they also contain vitamin B1 and additional vitamin E to help protect the body from oxidative stress and contribute to the normal functioning of the heart.

5) Co-Enzyme Q10

Co-enzyme Q10 (or CoQ10) is a fat-soluble antioxidant that can be made by the human body in the liver. Factors such as age and medications such as statins can interfere with the production of CoQ10, some studies even suggest that statins can reduce CoQ10 production by as much as 40%!

So, what exactly does this enzyme do? Well it is responsible for preventing damage by free radicals, regenerating other antioxidants and supporting energy production. People with high blood pressure are often deficient in this enzyme which can be a result of medication or through other unidentified factors. 

6) L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid that is most well-known for reducing anxiety by soothing the sympathetic nervous system and therefore reducing adrenal gland stimulation. L-theanine is found in green tea however, only in very small amounts, supplementation in those with high blood pressure is thought to be more beneficial.

More information and tips on lowering high blood pressure…

•Spend more time outside – spending time outside exposes the skin to natural sunlight which helps to control blood pressure by stimulating nitric oxide production which relaxes the blood vessels

•Get a good night’s sleep – I’m talking at least 7 hour here! Short sleep duration is a significant risk factor for developing high blood pressure and exacerbating existing symptoms

•Read my blog ‘6 fantastic foods to lower high blood pressure’ for some tasty recommendations

•Check out my blog for some easy lifestyle changes you can make to help lower high blood pressure

•Lower your stress levels – stress is a major contributor for triggering high blood pressure so taking steps towards managing your stress could help you take control of your blood pressure too! Click here for some natural ways you can lower your stress levels and manage your blood pressure

•Chat to your doctor about any medication you may be currently taking – statins in particular, as I discuss in my blog ‘Are statins doing you more harm than good?’ can have a range of side effects that can potentially cause some issues.

1  https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/890294
2  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
3  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28424187
4  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607063/  5 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/big_doses_of_vitamin_c_may_lower_blood_pressure

Ginkgo biloba drops

50ml

£ 10.50

find your local stockist

Fresh Ginkgo leaves extract. Also available in 100ml size.
More info

What's being asked

What can I do to ease the symptoms of varicose veins?

The seeds of horse chestnut have been used for ages to treat varicose veins. Horse chestnut seeds ...
Read more >

My tinnitus is driving me mad. Is there anything I can do?

The herb Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for tinnitus so it may be worth trying this for ...
Read more >

What can I do to improve my memory?

A good diet, full of wholegrains, vegetables, pulses, seeds, nuts and dried fruit, will provide the ...
Read more >

How well is your memory working?

Quick and simple tests to assess how well your working memory, short-term memory and long-term memory are working.

Take the test

Here’s what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Circulation advisor, I recommend Gingko biloba drops to help maintain a healthy circulation.

Learn more

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now

Bloated? Constipated? Join our 5 Steps to a Better Digestion plan now