Chances are that you know your weight, height and shoe size by heart. But do you have any idea what your blood pressure is? According to research by the Heart Foundation, this information is a mystery to many people. This must change, because high blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
Almost half of Dutch men between 40 and 60 years do not or hardly measure their blood pressure. And that while one in three men has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is slightly less common in women: one in four suffers from it.
“An assassin”, that’s how doctor David Smeekes of the Heart Foundation calls it. “People don’t notice that they have high blood pressure; their body gets used to it.”
From the age of 40, you should measure your blood pressure annually, according to the Heart Foundation. “It can save lives. High blood pressure affects the condition of the blood vessels and speeds up the process of atherosclerosis,” says Smeekes.
That increases the risk of a stroke or myocardial infarction. “It is always a combination of factors, such as stress, obesity, genes, smoking and therefore high blood pressure. You cannot say that the latter is the cause. But it is an important factor.”
Two values are measured in a blood pressure measurement. The upper pressure indicates the pressure created when the heart muscle contracts to pump blood into the blood vessels. The pressure in the artery is highest at that time. A normal top pressure is around 120.
The other value is the negative pressure. That’s when the heart escapes and the pressure in the arteries is lowest. A healthy negative pressure is around 80. Source: Hartstichting
Research shows that the chance of having a stroke decreases by 60 percent when the blood pressure decreases. This is 50 percent in a heart attack.
Men more often have high blood pressure than women, but according to research by the Heart Foundation, they measure less. “Men are generally less concerned with health. And they also generally eat more salt and less fruit and vegetables.”
Healthy nutrition plays an important role in lowering blood pressure, says Iris Groenenberg, Nutrition and Health expert at the Netherlands Nutrition Center. “It is better to leave products with a lot of salt, because eating less salt lowers blood pressure.”
Six grams per day
The problem is not only with manually adding salt to your meals. “Make sure you leave products to which a lot of salt has been added beforehand, for example soups, frozen pizzas and pasta sauces. This will quickly exceed the maximum amount of six grams per day.”
You can also be more careful with products that contain the substance glycyrrhizin. “This is a blood pressure-increasing substance that you can better leave. It is in salty liquorice and licorice tea, for example.”
Finally, alcohol is one of the culprits. “More than two drinks a day increases blood pressure.” Products that contribute to low blood pressure are vegetables, fruit, wholemeal bread and green and black tea.
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