High blood pressure is nicknamed the “silent killer” because it creeps in out of the blue. An increase in blood pressure may seem relatively benign, but it forces the heart to work harder. Over time, this can lead to heart and circulatory disease such as a heart attack or stroke.
Whole grains have been shown to be particularly beneficial in lowering high blood pressure.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet – diets proven to lower high blood pressure – both recommend including whole grains as part of a healthy diet.
“Choose breads, pastas and other high-carbohydrate foods that are made from whole grains instead of highly refined white flour,” advises Harvard Health.
What to avoid
The most important countermeasure for high blood pressure is to reduce your salt intake.
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Evidence shows that eating too much salt is more strongly linked to the development of high blood pressure, especially the increase in blood pressure with age.
According to Action on Salt, a group concerned about salt and its health effects, based at Queen Mary University in London, the effect is due to salt disrupting the natural balance of sodium in the body.
“This causes the body to retain water, which increases the pressure of the blood pushing against the walls of the vessels,” explains the health body.
How much salt should we eat?
According to official UK health guidelines, adults should eat no more than 6g of salt per day (2.4g of sodium), which is about a teaspoon.
Along with adjusting your diet, regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure to safer levels.
“Regular physical activity – for example 150 minutes a week or about 30 minutes most days of the week – can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
“Some examples of aerobic exercise that you can try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing,” adds the Mayo Clinic.