High blood pressure is a widespread condition in the UK. More than one in four adults live with high blood pressure, although many will not realise it. Despite the risks posed by an abnormally high blood pressure, such as heart attacks and strokes, many people struggle to make the necessary changes to their lifestyle. one first decisive step in the right direction could be to add small amounts of beetroot to a diet. According to Blood Pressure UK, eating too much salt in the biggest cause of high blood pressure.
Salt makes the body retain water. If too much salt in consumed, the extra water stored in the body raises blood pressure.
While many people struggle stick to the recommended guidelines on salt intake, a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension suggests adding tiny amounts of beetroot to salty food products might help prevent high blood pressure, according to a preliminary study of rats.
As the study explained, medical experts long have advised people not only to eat less salt but to increase their intake of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, which are associated with a lowered bp. But people struggle to sufficiently overhaul their diets.
“We’ve had these educational campaigns for years, but people aren’t eating more potassium, and the average salt intake in the U.S. population in hypertensive people has actually increased,” said Dr Theodore W. Kurtz, the study’s lead author and a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“We need to come up with new ways of preventing salt-induced hypertension,” he added.
The study, reported in the heart association, involved giving salt-sensitive rats salt along with small amounts of beetroot juice or dietary nitrate, which is found in root and leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and celery.
Researchers found that both the juice and the nitrate supplement were more than 100 times more potent than potassium in protecting rats against salt-induced increases in blood pressure.
If the results could be replicated in humans, it could provide a method for reducing salt-induced high blood pressure simply by adding a nitrate concentrate to certain salty foods, Kurtz said.
“We’re suggesting that manufacturers of products laden with salt – soy sauce, hot sauce and barbecue sauce – could add a very small amount of an extract from a nitrate-rich vegetable, and this would protect against salt-induced hypertension without reducing the salt or altering the taste of the product,” he added.
According to Dr. Stephen Juraschek, an internal medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the findings could have profound global implications: “This is an important study that could have value in addressing a sodium epidemic which is contributing to a staggering increase in cardiovascular disease and stroke globally.”
He acknowledged it is an incremental step and not the final solution, however. “Innovation is important, but on the flip side, it’s tricky to distill a healthy diet down to a single element.
“We all need to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetables, which have benefits that go beyond just blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
“We all want to know, ‘What is the silver bullet that could fix blood pressure?’ But I think a holistic approach and eating nutritious foods is still the best answer.”
According to the NHS, other ways to reduce high blood pressure include:
- Cut back on alcohol
- Lose weight if you’re overweight
- Reducing salt intake
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down on caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night
If people a struggling to cut out salt, Blood Pressure UK recommends trying a low-sodium salt alternative. These sodium-replacement salts taste the same as normal table salt but use potassium instead of sodium as a key ingredient. “In fact, they may help to lower blood pressure because of the helpful effects of potassium,” it said.
The charity warns that sodium-replacement salts are not suitable for everyone, however. “If you have kidney disease, or are taking certain blood pressure medications, a large increase in potassium could be harmful. Please check with your doctor before using a sodium-replacement salt.”