Dietary Advice for High Blood Pressure

General Dietary Advice:124

  • Eat complex carbohydrates (e.g. wholemeal bread, pasta and rice) and avoid processed refined carbohydrates white flour products and sugar (foods such as cakes, pastries and pastry products are high in fat, calories and, if sweet, also in sugar).
  • Minimise fats by choosing low fat cuts of meat, low fat dairy products and using oil sparingly when cooking.  Nuts and seeds are high in fat so whilst excellent sources of protein and minerals stick to only a handful daily.
  • Include protein in the form of fish, meat, poultry, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds and eggs.  Try to avoid eating meat every day and instead replace with fish or pulses.
  • Fruit and vegetables should be plentiful in the diet and you should aim for a ‘rainbow’ diet including a variety of colours daily.
  • See our dietary advice sheet for further information.

Salt:

There is a known link between high salt diets and high blood pressure. To reduce salt avoid processed foods such as ready meals, crisps, salted nuts and other ready snacks. Breads, stock cubes and breakfast cereals can be very high in salt so select only low-salt varieties. Many cheeses are high in salt (and also high in fat) so aim for no more than 1 ounce (roughly 1 inch squared) per day. Avoid adding salt to you cooking or meals.

Potassium:fresh fruits and vegetables

Diets that are high in potassium are associated with a reduction in blood pressure. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables, and some sources, such as bananas and melons are particularly high. Aim for at least 2 portions of fruit per day and at least 5 portions of vegetables per day. Stick to the ‘rainbow’ diet rule and incorporate fruits and vegetables that are a variety of colours into your daily diet.

Alcohol:

Alcohol is associated with increasing blood pressure and is very high in calories so can contribute to weight gain. Recently the guidelines for drinking have changed and the new recommendations are not to exceed more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women. Additionally, if you drink 14 units per week this should be spread over three days or more and not consumed in one session. You should also aim to have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.

Fats:

The type of fats you eat have an important effect on your blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol is implicated in the risk of developing heart disease. Eat fats that are high in monounsaturated fats (olive oil) to help protect your heart. Use olive oil for cooking and not seed or nut oils. Nut and seed oils are high in polyunsaturated fats which degrade when heated to form trans fatty acids which have been found to have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol. Minimise saturated fats found in animal fats such as fatty meats, cheese and full fat dairy products. A little butter in cooking is fine on occasion because there is no trans fatty acid formation on heating. When cooking try to steam, poach or grill foods rather than frying. Avoid deep fried foods.

Omega 3 fats are particularly beneficial to heart health and can be found in oily, cold water fish such as mackerel, salmon, anchovy, herring, sardines and tuna). Vegetable sources of omega 3 fats can be found in nuts and seeds. Fish should be unprocessed and not smoked, and should be grilled or poached. Nuts and seeds should be eaten raw or lightly toasted but not salted. Some people benefit from supplementing with omega 3 fats by using EPA and DHA supplements, or by using flax seed oil (cold and not heated) or flax seed oil supplements.

Weight:

There is a strong link between being overweight and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Stick to the general dietary advice to help you maintain a healthy weight, additionally avoiding sweet treats such as chocolates, sweets and other sweet or high fat treats. Exercise is important and you should aim for 20-60 minutes of moderate exercise at least 3 days per week. If you are unaccustomed to exercising you may need to build up to this very slowly, perhaps starting with just 5 minutes walking three days per week. If you have a medical problem (heart condition, asthma, other breathing disorder, joint problems, or are very overweight, for example) then speak to you GP about how you can safely build exercise into to you lifestyle. If you have mobility problems you may need help in finding an exercise program to suit you, and again speaking to you GP can be helpful.