High blood pressure, known medically as hypertension, is an extremely common problem worldwide. According to a 2011 survey, around three in every ten people suffer from hypertension, with figures touching eight in every ten above the age of 75. Not only is hypertension a common problem, it can also be a dangerous one; high blood pressure increases your chances of having strokes, heart disease and dying early. Thus, it is important that we keep a lid on your blood pressure, and consequently, the risk of complications.
The link between dairy and lower blood pressure
One type of food that some studies suggested has blood pressure-lowering properties is dairy. This link has been studied due to the discovery of a gene – called rs4988235 – that is linked with a higher intake of dairy. By collecting the blood pressure readings of these people, it is possible to see if there is a link between the two. Some research studies suggested that dairy does lower blood pressure, whereas others did not find this association.
However, a recent study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has looked to clear up the argument, reviewing thirty-two of these studies. And, the results showed that those carrying the gene associated with higher dairy intake did not, on the whole, have lower blood pressure than those without it
So, why did certain studies find a link? There are many possible reasons, one being something called a confounding factor (when two things look like they are linked, but it is actually due to something else related). In this case, the study identified that eating more low-fat dairy is likely to be part of a generally healthier lifestyle; it may look like dairy is causing blood pressure to be lowered, but these people are likely to eat well and exercise: a potential confounding factor. Healthier people naturally have lower blood pressure
How can I ensure my blood pressure is at a healthy level?
With dairy off the table, what can we do keep our blood pressure at a healthy level? The NHS recommends the following measures:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, specifically reducing salt intake
- Only drink alcohol at safe levels
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Drink less caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Try to sleep for at least six hours every night
If these measures aren’t quite enough to lower your blood pressure, your GP may choose to prescribe some medication. However, these don’t come without side-effects, so making lifestyle changes is the most powerful way to reduce your risk.
Yet, medical advice can often make such lifestyle changes sound easy: of course, they are not. However, the potential benefits of making these changes are huge and could prolong life. Should you wish need any advice on this, please use the links below. Your GP will also be a good source of information, advice and support.
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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice