Upping your whole grain intake could lower your blood pressure

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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It is thought around one in three UK adults are living with high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension. However, not all of them will be aware since it can be symptomless. If it is left untreated it can have serious consequences such as heart attacks and strokes.

Like many health conditions, what you eat has a major influence on your blood pressure levels.

It is well known that diets high in salt, for example, can significantly raise your blood pressure.

Similarly, other types of food can reduce your blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic eating whole grains “regularly” can do this.

It says: “Eating more whole grain foods on a regular basis might help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension).

“Whole grains are grains that include the entire grain kernel — they haven’t had their bran and germ removed by refining.

“Whole grain foods are a rich source of healthy nutrients, including fibre, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and selenium.

“These heart-healthy benefits can work together to help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

“If you already have high blood pressure, eating more whole grain foods might help lower your blood pressure.”

Overall the health benefits can include:

  • Helping manage weight as whole-grain foods can make you feel full up for longer
  • Raising potassium level, which is linked to lower blood pressure
  • Decreasing the risk of insulin resistance, which can reduce your risk of diabetes
  • Reducing damage to blood vessels.

Examples of whole grain foods include:

  • Wheats, including spelt
  • Rice
  • Barley including hull-less or naked barley but not pearled
  • Maize (corn)
  • Rye
  • Oats, including hull-less or naked oats
  • Millets
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Popcorn.

In the UK there are currently no guidelines on what amount of whole grains you should eat.

But in other countries it is recommended to aim for three servings a day.

The following count as one serving of whole grains, according to the Association of UK Dieticians:

  • One tablespoon of uncooked oats
  • Three tablespoons of whole grain cereal
  • Two to three heaped tablespoons of cooked brown rice
  • One medium slice of bread
  • Half a wholemeal tortilla
  • Half a wholemeal pitta
  • Two to three tablespoons of whole grain pasta.

It is measured by two numbers: the systolic pressure (the higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower).

Systolic pressure is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

And the diastolic pressure is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80).

Whereas, ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Kidney disease
  • Vascular dementia.

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