What’s the link between high blood pressure and high cholesterol?
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol it means you have more levels of this substance in your blood than what is deemed to be healthy. Cholesterol is a type of fatty substance that our body uses to create certain hormones, vitamin D and to build cells.
Too much cholesterol is thought to stick to the walls of your arteries and, over time, this can create a fatty build-up of inflexible plaque that can damage the arteries. This plaque can cause your arteries to become stiff and narrow making it more difficult for your blood to pass through.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the wall of your blood vessels is constantly too high. Prolonged exposure to high blood pressure puts the heart under additional strain and can eventually cause weakness and lead to more serious cardiovascular diseases. Similar to our joints, as we age our arteries can become a bit stiffer which causes the blood pressure within the vessels to rise and can therefore contribute to the formation of high blood pressure.1
If you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol your heart has to work harder to pump blood through – this is a result of stiff narrow arteries that high cholesterol can cause. Research has shown that those who have higher cholesterol levels have significantly higher blood pressure than those with low cholesterol levels.2
What can I do to prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels?
Get routine check-ups by your doctor
Nobody particularly likes going to the doctors and, for some, it can even be a frightening endeavour. However, getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly checked by a doctor is an important step in the management process. Follow their advised medication plan and take recommended lifestyle changes in order to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Lose excess weight
Blood pressure often increases as a result of excessive weight gain. Being overweight makes it harder for your heart to pump blood around your body so shedding those extra pounds can help to lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.
If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure (and/or lose weight to help with this) then dietary changes are one of the quickest ways to go about it. Eat plenty of fruit and veg as they are rich in dietary fibre which helps to lower and manage cholesterol levels. Lowering your sodium intake and increasing your potassium intake can help with managing blood pressure because potassium helps to balance out the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
Saturated fat and trans fats raise your cholesterol levels so steer clear wherever you can. The most common culprits containing saturated fat include red meat, processed meats and full-fat dairy products. Healthier sources of fats include avocados, olive oil and nuts such as walnuts and almonds.
Manage your stress levels
Stress can easily sky-rocket your blood pressure levels and this can be made worse if you respond to stress by indulging in unhealthy activities such as excessive alcohol consumption, junk food and smoking. Check out my blog for more information on how stress interacts with your blood pressure levels, as well as my top tips to help you manage stress better.
An active lifestyle helps to support your circulation as well as lower your cholesterol levels. Take the time to find exercise that works best for you. This can be anything from walking to more vigorous forms of exercise such as running or cycling. Doing just 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise weekly can help to improve your cholesterol levels.3
Use garlic to support your blood pressure
Research by the University of Adelaide found that garlic showed promising results in helping to reduce blood pressure.4 However, it is important to note that the research has shown that garlic on its own is not enough to significantly lower blood pressure and that other lifestyle measures should be taken alongside.
Garlic is extremely affordable and versatile and so can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways. However, supplement forms such as Jan de Vries’ Hawthorn Garlic Complex Capsules are also available too.
A final thought…
It’s important to make manageable lifestyle changes that you can continue to do over time. Be patient because it might take a little time for your body to adjust and for you to begin to see results. Take it slow and make smaller changes to begin with that you know will be easier to stick to than one large change.
Originally written on 12/03/2018, updated on 24/09/2018.