Question: “I’m in my 70s and have had generally good health, but recently was told I have high blood pressure. I’m now taking medication for this, but is there anything I can do, diet and exercise-wise, to help? What are the foods I should concentrate on at my age?”
– Edith, via email
Expert advice: As we age, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and physical activity routine to help manage blood pressure. Foods high in dietary fibre and nutrients like potassium and magnesium have been shown to help lower blood pressure. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts can be beneficial. Calcium-rich dairy-based foods are also helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Opt for three serves of low-fat dairy every day.
Excess salt (sodium) in the diet may increase the risk of high blood pressure. To cut back, try to eat fewer processed foods, including takeaway foods, deli meats (salami, ham and sausages) and salty snack foods. Watch for hidden salt lurking in pantry items like bread, breakfast cereals and condiments. Check the ‘per 100g’ column on the nutrition panel and compare the sodium content of similar products. Choose products that contain less than 400mg per 100g, and salt-reduced varieties where possible. Using fresh herbs, spices or lemon juice to jazz up your meals instead of reaching for the salt shaker helps too.
Physical activity can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels by improving cardiovascular health, managing weight and reducing stress. Currently 150–300 minutes of physical activity a week is recommended. This could be a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
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For more advice on managing blood pressure, we recommend: How to lower high blood pressure or How the DASH diet can help lower high blood pressure