High blood pressure is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can hike your risk of developing a number of serious cardiovascular complications such as heart disease – a major killer in the UK.
The festive period can present hidden risks if you are looking to lower your blood pressure reading because the temptation to overindulge in unhealthy foods is greater than usual.
Tucking into the cheese board may form an essential part of your Christmas day proceedings but it is important to exercise caution if you are looking to keep your blood pressure in check.
As the British Heart Foundation points out, cheese is a great source of protein and calcium but is often high in saturated fat and salt.
Foods that are high in saturated fat and salt can raise the risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in blood, is linked to high blood pressure and both can act as precursors to cardiovascular disease (CVD), warns the BHF.
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High blood pressure: Cheese can be high in saturated fat and salt, which can raise blood pressure
You do not have to cut out the cheese board completely, but if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, use high-fat cheeses sparingly.
“Some types of roquefort, halloumi, feta and cheese singles are saltier than seawater,” warned the BHF.
To minimise the risks, try to swap out high-fat cheeses for lower-fat options such as mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese or reduced-fat cheeses – this will provide less saturated fat and lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Conversely, certain cheeses have also been shown to actively lower blood pressure, such as Grana Padano cheese.
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Findings presented at the 31st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) revealed that just one serving of Grana Padano cheese – an Italian cheese comparable to parmesan, can lower blood pressure.
Research attributes the blood-pressure-lowering properties to peptides found in the cheese.
These short chains of amino acids strongly prevent the build-up of an enzyme which indirectly increases blood pressure by causing blood vessels to constrict.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Giuseppe Crippa said: “The effects are similar to what you would expect with antihypertensive medications.
High blood pressure: Alcohol can raise your blood pressure so it is important to stay within limits
”Adding a little Grana Padano to a healthy diet may provide clinically significant blood pressure-lowering benefits.”
Other tips to avoid high blood pressure
The festive period tends to be boozy but regularly drinking alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time so it is vital to stay within the recommended alcohol limits to lower your risk of high blood pressure.
According to the NHS:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.
What is the link between being overweight and high blood pressure?
“Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure,” explained the NHS.
The health site added: “If you do need to lose some weight, it’s worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health.”
Keeping physically active can help you to lose weight and keep high blood pressure in check, particularly over the Christmas period, when your calorie count tends to be higher.
The NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.