High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by causing your arteries to lose their stretchiness and become stiff or narrow. As the British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains, the narrowing makes it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up. “If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack,” the BHF warns.
Hypertensive patients who drank 250ml of beetroot juice a day were found to have blood pressure levels back in the “normal” range by the end of the study.”The effect is caused by the high levels of a type of chemical called nitrates, which is found in high quantities in beetroot, and other leafy green vegetables like kale and cabbage,” reports the BHF.
The study, involving 64 volunteers, points to the long-lasting reduction in blood pressure by supplementing the diet with nitrates in patients with high blood pressure.
The level of reduction was similar to that from some forms of blood pressure medication.
What’s more, no adverse side effects were observed in people taking the daily dose of nitrates, in the form of beetroot juice.Commenting on the findings, the BHF said: “The results suggest that supplementing the levels of nitrate in the diet can be a simple and effective way to manage high blood pressure.
“But a study on many more patients is needed before this approach can become a recommended treatment for high blood pressure.”
Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, who led the research, said: “This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure and the best part is we can get it from beetroot and other leafy green vegetables.”
How to lower high blood pressure: Potassium lowers high blood pressure (Image: Getty Images)
Prof Ahluwalia added: “For those looking to work dietary nitrate into their daily diets, the trick is not to boil the vegetables – as dietary nitrate is water soluble – but steaming, roasting or drinking in a juice all has a positive effect.”In addition to increasing nitrate intake, potassium can also help to lower high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association (AHA) explains: “The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine.”
Sodium (salt) causes blood pressure to rise so it is imperative to mitigate its effects.
High blood pressure: How to assess your blood pressure reading (Image: Getty Images)
What’s more, potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure, notes the AHA.Fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy foods and fish are good natural sources of potassium.
Other key tips
In addition to eating well, you should also engage in regular physical activity to lower high blood pressure.
The NHS explains: “Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.”