Updated: Oct 24, 2020
According to data from the 2017–18 Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey, 1 in 3 people aged 18 and over have high blood pressure, that’s a whopping 34%!
What is hypertension?
High blood pressure is a common silent western disease in which the flow of blood through the vessels and arteries flows at a pressure which is deemed higher than normal. Hypertension is diagnosed when an individual’s blood pressure (BP) is read higher than normal on multiple occasions. Hypertension is determined through a systolic blood pressure (SBP) >140mmHg and a diastolic pressure (DBP) > 90mmHg. Hypertension may be described as essential hypertension (primary or idiopathic) or secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension accounts for almost 95% of patients suffering from hypertension. The prevalence of hypertension in Australia sits at 10.5% and 10.7% for adult females and males in 2017-18
Hypertension, is a major risk factor for chronic health conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure along with kidney disease.
What are the risk factors for Hypertension?
Obesity – A BMI of 26-28 increases the risk of developing hypertension by up to 180% compared to individuals with a BMI below 23
Lifestyle habits (smoking)
Stress - a major contributor
Sedentary lifestyles (inactivity)
Low dietary intake of potassium
High dietary intake of salt
Is hypertension symptomatic? Hypertension is generally asymptomatic, meaning, symptom-less, however, symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, hot flushes along with mood disorders may occur for some individuals suffering from hypertension.
So what can we do to avoid suffering from high blood pressure, and ultimately, preventing the risk that high blood pressure and hypertension poses?
Avoid Table Salt and reduce intake of sodium Completely avoid table salt in your diet and swap for Himalayan Sea Salt (this is the pink salt you can find at supermarkets).
Why? Studies demonstrate a positive link between high salt intake and the prognosis of hypertension. Table and regular salt cause an unwanted raise of sodium in the body, causing an imbalance of sodium & potassium levels, blood pressure is then raised to help remove the sodium which results in high blood pressure.
How much salt should we have per day?
2000mg of sodium is recommended per day as a maximum limit. This is 5g of salt (about a teaspoon), about 3 twists of a salt grinder with two meals per day. Australians are consuming almost double the recommended maximum amount of sodium per day!
What foods should we be limiting or avoiding to ensure we reduce our salt intake?
Processed meats such as bacon, ham, sausages & salami
All fast food
What should we be looking for when reading food labels?
Always check the amount of sodium on food labels. When suffering from hypertension we should be aiming for less than 120mg of sodium per 100g when purchasing packaged foods.
Choose a hobby that you personally like and can fit into your day every day that reduces stress (yoga, meditation, golf, stretching to music, singing, dancing, puzzles etc). Make time to include it and enjoy it as part of your everyday.
Why? Experiencing stress means we are in fight/flight mode, which means we are dominant in our sympathetic nervous system. When this nervous system is dominant, we experience constriction of our arteries which prevents blood flow and raises blood pressure. Sympathetic nervous system dominance also results in reduced oxygen concentration in our blood flow as a result of altered breathing patterns when under stress, imbalance of electrolytes and inflammation of the blood vessels which further results in stiffening and constriction of our arteries.
INCREASE POTASSIUM RICH FOODS
Potassium helps to relax the walls of blood vessels which helps lower blood pressure, whilst allowing excess sodium to be excreted by the body
Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans)
All vegetables – at least 5 different vegetables with lunch & with dinner
INCREASE MAGNESIUM RICH FOODS
Increased levels of stress means an increased excretion of magnesium through our urine, which results in the inability of the body to cope with stress. Increasing our intake of magnesium enables our bodies cope with stress & anxiety, as well being an important nutrient for maintaining normal levels of blood pressure.
OTHER WAYS TO ACTIVATE THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM TO HELP REDUCE STRESS & BLOOD PRESSURE
Playing with children or animals
Warm baths with magnesium salts
Deep abdominal breathing Close your eyes, breathe in and count to 4, breathe out and count to 4, doing this for a few minutes assists our bodies out of flight/fight response which we experience during stress
Gently Touch Your Lips Your lips have parasympathetic fibers spread throughout them, so touching them activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Take one or two fingers and lightly run them over your lips, or call your lover over for some romantic kissing to kick both your bodies into RELAX mode!
Be Mindful of your daily activities and avoid multitasking - this is especially important when eating, when we are eating we should be purely focused on eating and nothing else. Focusing on the smell, look, taste and texture of food from cooking up until finishing your last bite.
Visualisation Visualisation helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is something I do often being a dreamer, and can really set you up for a good mood.
Engaging in all senses: Acknowledge the present moment and engage in sight, smell, sound, taste and touch - allowing yourself to switch off from thinking and forgetting about the past and the future, allowing yourself to be in the here and now moment.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Hypertension and measured high blood pressure. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~201718~Main%20Features~Hypertension%20and%20measured%20high%20blood%20pressure~60
Bolívar J. J. (2013). Essential hypertension: an approach to its etiology and neurogenic pathophysiology. International journal of hypertension, 2013, 547809. doi:10.1155/2013/547809
Edwards, K. M., Wilson, K. L., Sadja, J., Ziegler, M. G., & Mills, P. J. (2011). Effects on blood pressure and autonomic nervous system function of a 12-week exercise or exercise plus DASH-diet intervention in individuals with elevated blood pressure. Acta physiologica (Oxford, England), 203(3), 343–350. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.2011.02329.x
Goodhart A. K. (2016). Hypertension from the patient's perspective. The British journal of general practice: the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 66(652), 570. doi:10.3399/bjgp16X687757
Hall J. E. (2016). Renal Dysfunction, Rather Than Nonrenal Vascular Dysfunction, Mediates Salt-Induced Hypertension. Circulation, 133(9), 894–906. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018526
Heart Foundation. (2016). Guideline for the diagnosis and management of hypertension in adults. Retrieved from https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/PRO- 167_Hypertension-guideline-2016_WEB.pdf
National Institute of Health. (n.d). High blood pressure. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-pressure