In regards to diet, there is strong evidence that eating too much salt is related to the development of high blood pressure, especially in older age. Professor MacGregor from Queen Mary University of London explained. “A high-salt diet upsets the natural water balance and causes the body to hold on to too much salt and water, which increases the pressure of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls.” Professor MacGregor highlights the importance of minimising added salt and ready-made, processed foods.
There’s a whole list of salty foods Professor MacGregor advises people should eat less of.
This includes crumpets, croissants, breads, and wraps that are “all surprisingly high in salt”.
Salad dressings, including salad cream and mayonnaises should only be eaten in small quantities, if at all.
And people are recommended to choose “low-salt varieties” of sauces such as pesto and tomato ketchup, should they use them.
So many products contain high levels of salt already, without then adding extra in your cooking.
“All ‘salt’ is salt (sodium chloride), even if it’s called table salt, sea salt, rock salt or Himalayan salt,” said Professor MacGregor.
“These salts are just an easy (and expensive) way to add more salt to your food without realising.”
Instead, people should focus on eating more fruit and vegetables, which have been proven to help lower blood pressure.
“Fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins and fibre to keep your body in good condition,” added Professor MacGregor.
“They also contain the mineral potassium which helps to balance out the negative effects of the sodium in salt. This has a direct effect on your blood pressure, helping to lower it.”
Cooking at home with fresh ingredients is the best way forward (without added salt).
However, if you still buy packaged goods, the free health app FoodSwitch has a SaltSwitch filter that is “a great tool for making the switch to a healthier brand”.
Five ways to lower blood pressure
- Eat a healthy diet
- Watch your waistline
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
“If your blood pressure is extremely severe, there may be certain symptoms to look out for,” said Professor MacGregor. This includes:
- Severe headache
- Vision problems
- Difficulty breathing
“Raised blood pressure is the silent killer, that’s why it’s vital everyone knows their numbers and gets their blood pressure checked either by your GP or using a home blood pressure monitor.
“This is the most important step you can take to reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure.”