How often do you think about your heart?

Chances are if you haven’t had a need to think about heart health you may not give it much thought. You might go to the doctor and get your blood pressure done but what do you do if it’s a bit high or you check your apple watch during exercise and your heart rate has shot up?

These could be things to pay attention to and of course your GP is the person you need to speak to but there are things we can do to keep our heart health in check that don’t require a GP or meds.

Firstly, lets establish what a normal range for blood pressure is. This great chart from gives a good understanding of blood pressure ranges. When it comes to a resting pulse, most adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100bpm. The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate is likely to be. For example, athletes may have a resting heart rate of 40 to 60bpm, or lower.

Why should we be fussed about a high BP?

High blood pressure plays a significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease. CVD is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), Stroke, Peripheral Arterial Disease and Aortic Disease are all types of CVD. Sadly, women are more susceptible to developing CVD of some sort especially as we approach menopause. So if you aren’t already, now is the time to start thinking about how you can support your heart health.

But what causes blood pressure to rise?

There are number of reasons your BP can increase:

  • Smoking (I put this one first because, well, it’s the worst!)
  • Genetics
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Stress
  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Thyroid issues
  • High levels of alcohol
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • High salt diet

As you can see from this list there are some causes which we can’t do much about, genetics, thyroid problem, family history. However, the others, which we call modifiable risk factors, we can do something about.

  • As I mention, smoking – if you smoke then please do your very best to stop and find other ways to alleviate stress or boredom.
  • Being overweight – easier said than done sometimes but if you are keen to reduce your bodyweight try to find a supportive, healthy way of achieving and maintaining weight loss.
  • Lack of physically activity – we really need to be moving on a daily basis. It could be as simple as a daily brisk 20-30 minute walk. Get your heart rate up and get blood flowing, it’ll feel great as you start to get into the habit.
  • Stress – goodness me life isn’t easy for a lot of us right now but please try to find a little time to do something that will reduce your stress. Reading, gardening, meditating and walking in nature are all proven ways of reducing stress. Sleep is another great way of relieving stress, so focus on a consistent wind down and bedtime routine for a good nights sleep.
  • Alcohol – there are so many reasons to stop or significantly reduce alcohol, especially for women and especially if you are menopausal as drinking significantly raises both resting pulse and blood pressure.

There are also some nutritional elements we can focus on to support our heart health. Including a good variety of fibre foods, aiming for around 30g per day. Try wholemeal bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, brown pasta or rice, fruit, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts, seeds and potatoes with skins.

There is some research that beetroot has been shown to reduce blood pressure, specifically systolic blood pressure . Similar effects have been seen in spinach. Spinach is a rich source of fiber, potassium as well as lutein. They prompt the blood vessels to relax thus lowering your blood pressure. The green leafy vegetables also contains a good amount of dietary magnesium that is again beneficial for maintaining the blood pressure level.

Supplement wise, fish oil has been shown to have some benefits in those with worse cases of high blood pressure. This is a good meta-analysis examining the research

All of this is very important for women especially as we head towards menopause. If you would like any help or advise on how to implement changes or would like support get in touch.

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