Fish, chips and mushy peas without salt and vinegar is unthinkable, isn’t it? And what can beat a nice bag of salted peanuts or salt & vinegar crisps with a relaxing pint at lunchtime or after a long day at the office?
Nothing on Earth, quite frankly. But, beware; sprinkling too much salt on your food can impact badly on your blood pressure, both now and in the long term.
Although most of us add salt to our meals every day without giving it a second thought, the link between blood pressure problems and having too much salt on (and in) our food is actually widely known. But what about regularly drinking alcohol to excessive amounts? Can that negatively affect blood pressure too?
Let’s find out…
Blood pressure – some key facts
The pressure level of your blood as it passes through your arteries is basically your ‘blood pressure’. When you feel anxious or afraid (or in any circumstance/situation where your heart rate increases) your blood pressure increases in tandem. To use the medical term, this is known as the systolic pressure: it is measured after the heart contracts, when the pressure of your blood inside your body is at its highest.
When measured by a medical professional using a ‘cuff’, your systolic pressure is given a number. Your low blood pressure reading is called the diastolic pressure: this is the measurement taken before your heart contracts.
So, when your GP, a nurse, or another medical professional measures your blood pressure, and then writes down two figures after reading the digits on the blood pressure measurement machine, the diastolic and systolic pressure measurements are what they are noting down.
But what is a good reading, and what would give cause for concern?
Blood Pressure UK recommends:
“Ideally, we should all have a blood pressure below 120 over 80 (120/80). This is the best blood pressure for people wishing to have good health. At this level, we have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke.”
How to bring your blood pressure down
If your blood pressure is above 120/80mmHg, don’t ignore the problem or say to yourself that you will have your blood pressure checked again in six months’ time. Do something about it now. As a start, here are a handful of tips to help you lower your blood pressure to a healthy level (and to stop it from rising further):
- Eat less salt
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- Avoid stress
- Drink less alcohol (ensuring that you reduce your regular alcohol consumption to a safe level)
So, how much alcohol is safe to drink?
According to Government guidelines, the current recommended limits are 21 units of alcohol a week for men, and 14 units a week for women. A unit is roughly half a pint of beer or cider, a small glass of wine, or a single pub measure of spirits.
As well as stopping your blood pressure from increasing further, reducing how much you drink each week will improve and protect your health in innumerable ways both now and as you get older.
Finally, if you’re worried that reducing your salt intake both on and in your food will stop you enjoying meal and snack times, don’t be. You’ll gradually get used to it. After a while your taste buds will adjust: sprinkling salt on your food will become unthinkable. Promise!
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