In Ireland it is estimated that up to 50% of adults aged between 45 and 54 have hypertension (high blood pressure). This trend increases as we examine older cohorts within the Irish population with approximately 77% of over 75’s suffering from hypertension. Currently, the Irish Heart foundation recommend that blood pressure is kept below 140mmHg systolic and 90mmHg diastolic.
Why is lower blood pressure important?
Numerous longitudinal studies have found that lower blood pressure is correlated with a decreased risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. For example, The SPRINT trial in the US divided 9,300 patients into two groups to assess the health benefits and differences between having a systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or less versus 120mmHg or less. The results surprised many and found that the group with a systolic blood pressure of 120mmHg or less had a 25% lower mortality rate and a 33% reduction in cardiovascular morbidity.
It is important to note that in the SPRINT trial, medication was the primary means of lowering the patient’s blood pressure. Lifestyle changes such as participating in physical exercise and eating a healthy diet are also two important ways that people can use to improve their blood pressure profile.
Following a Mediterriean diet that is high in vegetables and healthy fats can have a positive effect on both blood pressure and cholesterol. More recent research in particular has found that vegetables high in nitrates (kale, spinach or beatroot) can cause vasodilation thereby decreasing blood pressure. It is important to note that Warfarin patients should limit their intake of leafy greens due to their high Vitamin K content.
Aerobic exercise can also reduce blood pressure in both the long and short term. The short term effects of lowering blood pressure usually last 24-48 hours which is why regular aerobic exercise is so important. The American College of Sports Medicine recommend that everyone engages in moderate aerobic exercise (such as walking) for at least 30 minutes on five or more days per week.