High blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day but a consistently high reading is a grave concern.
Over time, high blood pressure can cause your arteries to lose their stretchiness and become stiff or narrow.
The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up, and clogged arteries can lead to a heart attack so it is vital that you keep your blood pressure in check.
The condition is intimately tied to lifestyle decisions and diet plays a prominent role in regulating blood pressure.
While it is important to focus on your overall approach, certain items have been shown to lower blood pressure.
One study published in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests regularly consuming milk and soy protein-based supplements should one part of your overall approach to keeping blood pressure in check.
The study’s findings suggest that partly replacing refined carbohydrates with foods or drinks high in soy or milk protein may help prevent and treat high blood pressure, said Jiang He, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher of the study.
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High blood pressure: Foods or drinks high in soy or milk protein may lower systolic blood pressure
In a randomised, controlled clinical trial, study participants who took a milk protein supplement had a 2.3 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) lower systolic blood pressure, compared to when they took a refined carbohydrate supplement.
Additionally, participants who took a soy protein supplement had a two mmHg lower systolic blood pressure when compared to the refined carbohydrate supplement.
Systolic blood pressure is a number that measures the highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood round your body.
The number offers the most accurate indicator of your likelihood of having a heart attack so it is important to keep this in check.
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According to Blood Pressure UK, a systolic blood pressure reading of 140 or more constitutes high blood pressure.
The findings are significant because, according to previous research, a two mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure could lead to six percent fewer stroke-related deaths, a four percent lower rate of heart disease deaths and a three percent reduction in overall deaths.
The study found that while the milk-based supplements led to a reduction in blood pressure, refined carbohydrate supplements were not linked to a change in systolic blood pressure.
“Some previous observational research on eating carbohydrates inconsistently suggested that a high carbohydrate diet might help reduce blood pressure,” said He, an epidemiologist at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, La.
High blood pressure: Systolic blood pressure indicates your chances of having a heart attack
He added: “In contrast, our clinical trial directly compares soy protein with milk protein on blood pressure, and shows they both lower blood pressure better than carbohydrates.”
Other key dietary tips
It is also vital to watch your intake of salt because the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.
To stay on the safe side, the NHS recommends eating less than six grams (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
According to the health body, eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure.
Another key aspect of blood pressure control is engaging in regular exercise.
“Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition,” explains the NHS.
In fact, becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of four to nine millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), says Mayo Clinic.
How does exercise help?
Mayo Clinic explains: “Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
Regular exercise also helps you to lose weight and maintaining a healthy weight offers a robust defence against high blood pressure.
As the NHS points out, being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.
The healthy body advises doing at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening, it adds.