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High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading

High blood pressure describes what happens when the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high. This pressure can cause your arteries to constrict and harden, meaning less blood is able to flow through them to the heart. This process steadily raises your risk of having a heart attack so it is vital that you take steps to bring down your reading.

Diet is key to stabilising your blood pressure but it can also be responsible for rising it.

A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) evaluated the role that eating different types of potato has on high blood pressure.

The researchers, from Harvard Medical School, looked at more than 187,000 men and women in three large American studies.

It compared people who had less than one serving a month of baked, mashed or boiled potatoes, chips, prednisone weaning or crisps, and people who had four or more servings a week.

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The researchers found that french fries (chips) posed the gravest risk to blood pressure levels.

They found that there was an 11 percent higher risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) if participants had four or more servings a week of baked, boiled or mashed potatoes.

This compared with a 17 per cent higher risk for French fries (chips), compared to people who had less than one serving a month.

They found no increased risk with a higher consumption of crisps, however.

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However, a portion of crisps in the study was much smaller by weight than the other forms of potato (28g/1oz of crisps compared with 4oz /113g of French fries), so it might be that the smaller amount of potatoes affected the results.

It is important to note that definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from the research, however.

Commenting on the findings, Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, highlighted a number of notable limitations.

She said: “This type of study can only show an association, not cause and effect. So we can’t conclude that potatoes cause high blood pressure and we cannot explain the cause of the results seen in the study.

“It is also important to note this is a study from the US where dietary guidance and recommendations vary from the UK.”

For example, as Taylor pointed out, in the UK potatoes are not included in the 5-a-day recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption.

While potatoes are part of the starchy carbohydrates section of the Government’s Eatwell guide, as with all foods, it’s important to consider the overall balance of the foods we eat, she said.

“Nearly 30 percent of adults in the UK have high blood pressure so it is key that we understand the condition and its causes as much as possible,” Taylor added.

General tips to lower high blood pressure

One of the most important tips is to lower your salt intake because salt raises blood pressure.

The NHS says to cut your salt intake to less than six grams (0.2oz) a day, which is about a teaspoonful.

You should also eat a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, advises the health body.

Other key tips include:

  • Be active
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Lose weight
  • Drink less caffeine – found in coffee, tea and cola
  • Stop smoking.

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