There are many positives of the Christmas period. We all need the downtime a few days away from work can provide us, and being surrounded by family and friends should make that time even more special. Then there's the vast variety of tasty Christmas food, which can be difficult to resist despite the high calorie count.
However, if you over-indulge it may have an undesired effect on your blood pressure if you're not careful. It is important then that you look after yourself in order to keep your blood pressure within healthy limits.
If you do have high blood pressure, making changes to your diet and lifestyle can help reduce it significantly. Smart changes to improve your blood pressure include:
Losing some weight
If you're overweight, losing just a little can make a big difference to your blood pressure and can also reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Each kilogram dropped has an impact, which can be as much as 2.5/1.5 mm Hg. 1
You should aim to do some moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. This could include brisk walking, swimming or cycling, anything that is enough to make you a little sweaty. Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, although if you currently have high blood pressure you should think about speaking to your doctor before you start any intensive exercise activities.
Your diet should be healthy and balanced, including:
- At least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- A third of your plate for most meals should be starchy foods, such as cereals, wholegrain bread or pasta, potatoes or brown rice
- Limit your saturated fats, such as processed foods, red meats, and dairy products, and instead have unsaturated fats
- Eat two portions of fish a week, with one of those being oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon or sardines
- Choose lean portions of meat, including poultry
- Limit your intake of salt. We shouldn't eat more than 6 grams of salt per day, although most of us eat more than this as salt is found in so many foods, especially those that are processed. You can reduce this by choosing foods labelled 'no added salt', and by using herbs and spices to flavour food.
A healthy diet has a number of benefits for your overall health. It can help to lower cholesterol, control your weight, and even contributes towards avoiding some diseases. Switching to a low-fat and low-salt, with lots of fruit and vegetables can have a dramatic effect on your blood pressure.
Be cautious with stimulants
Stimulants such as recreational drugs and nicotine can affect blood pressure, especially in those whose blood pressure is sensitive to them and especially if your blood pressure is already high.
Keep your alcohol intake within healthy limits
Drinking excessively can significantly increase your blood pressure over time, so you should not drink more than the recommended levels. This means drinking no more than 21 units a week (three to four units/day) for men, or 14 units a week (two to three units/day) for women. It is also advisable to have two alcohol-free days a week. If you are currently a heavy drinker, cutting back to these limits could reduce your systolic blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg.