Chocolate lowers blood pressure – and 10 more things that can too!


CHOCOHOLICS, you’re in luck. It turns out your favourite slab of chocolate could be doing wonders for your heart.

New research has discovered it protects your ticker by lowering blood pressure.

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Chocolate could be more than a mood booster – scientists have found it can help lower blood pressureCredit: Getty

Yes, the sweet, delicious food that so many of us can’t get enough of DOES have some benefits thanks to flavanol – antioxidants found in cocoa – which help loosen veins and arteries.

The study from University of Surrey, found people who took cocoa supplements – packed with the same amount of flavanols as 500g of dark chocolate – had lower blood pressure and stretchier blood vessels within just three hours.

It makes for promising reading, particularly as Blood Pressure UK have revealed that one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure, costing the NHS over £2.1 billion every year.

High blood pressure is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks, and it’s also a risk factor for heart and kidney disease as well as vascular dementia. 

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Dubbed the ‘silent killer’ due to a lack of symptoms, there are estimated to be more than five million people in the UK undiagnosed.

Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy says causes of high blood pressure include obesity, a high-salt diet, excess alcohol, smoking, stress, certain medications, a sedentary lifestyle, older age and chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, kidney disease, and raised cholesterol levels.

So with chocolate firmly ON the menu, what other surprising health hacks are there for lowering blood pressure?

1. BORROW A DOG

SPEND some time with a pooch! Abbas Kanani, Pharmacist and Medical adviser for Chemist Click, ​​says studies have proven that those with pets had lower resting baseline heart rates and blood pressure.

“This is most likely down to pets alleviating feelings of stress,” he told SunHealth.

Petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower your blood pressure by ten per cent according to a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia.

No chance of getting close to a dog? “Recent Australian research has shown that watching animal videos led to a reduction in blood pressure, and lowered stress by 50 per cent.

“They watched images of Australian quokkas thought to be the happiest animals in the world,” says Dr Deborah.

2. HAVE LOTS OF SEX

HOORAH, another reason to get down and dirty between the sheets! 

Dr Deborah says studies have shown that as the frequency of sexual intercourse increases, blood pressure tends to fall.

“Regular sex can also reduce the risk of a heart attack. In one American study, blood pressure was found to fall by 13 per cent  the day after having sexual intercourse. 

“This may be due to the release of serotonin and endorphins which are released when having sex,” she adds.

3. MEDITATE FOR 15 MINUTES

“MEDITATION is a form of relaxation therapy,” says Dr Deborah. “During meditation, the person becomes calm, learns their mind and develops acceptance, tolerance and reflection.”

An Australian study found workers who meditated in their office chair for just 15 minutes showed a significant decline in blood pressure.

“Meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) which induces feelings of calm and relaxation, associated with slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” says Dr Deborah.

Try it: Take a deep breath in and hold your breath for two or three seconds, then slowly exhale.

Petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower your blood pressure by ten per cent

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Petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower your blood pressure by ten per centCredit: Getty

4. FLICK TO CLASSICAL

JUST listening to music can help. Dr Deborah reveals a 2008 study by the American Society of Hypertension found adults with mild hypertension (high blood pressure) experienced a drop in blood pressure after listening to classical, Celtic or Indian music for 30 minutes every day for a month.

“Scientists have suggested this may be because we process sound in the brainstem, which is also the brain centre that controls the rate of our heart and breathing, and our blood pressure.”

5. GRIP YOUR HANDS

ISOMETRIC handgrip exercises – which involve squeezing a spring-loaded hand grip device, for two minutes at a time, repeated for 12 to 15 minutes — can help control your blood pressure, according to an American Heart Association study review.

The ultrasound measurements taken at the end of the study demonstrated greater flexibility in the walls of the participants’ carotid arteries (they supply blood to your brain).

You could also squeeze a tennis ball in your hand (using your fingers not your thumb) for a similar effect.

6. SCOFF POTATOES

WE love spuds. Luckily these starchy vegetables are high in potassium which Abbas says can counteract high sodium levels in the body, helping to reduce blood pressure.

Research by Harvard says potassium relaxes the walls of the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. 

Plus, studies have shown a link between low potassium intake and increased blood pressure as well as a higher risk of stroke.

Check your blood pressure

IF you don’t fancy going to the doctor to have your blood pressure monitored, you might want to invest in an at-home kit, like Boots Pharmaceuticals Blood Pressure Monitor (£19.99).

With high blood pressure presenting with zero symptoms, checking it yourself is a good way to stay on top of it.

7. LAUGH OUT LOUD

NOTHING beats a good chuckle. Luckily, it doesn’t just put us in a good mood, but the fact laughter can relax us makes it a useful tool in lowering blood pressure too!

Laughter causes blood vessels to dilate by 22 per cent, according to a study by the University of Maryland. 

Another study at Osaka University in Japan also found those who took part in laughter interventions saw blood pressure decrease by 5mmHg (which is good!).

8. ENJOY A SOAK

LISTEN up blokes! Find yourself a jacuzzi! You’ll be pleased to hear that a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found blood pressure dropped in men who spent ten minutes in a hot tub at 40 degrees C.

9. EAT GARLIC

CONSUMING garlic or garlic powder can help lower blood pressure as it ‘offers natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties’.

“It contains sulphur containing compounds like allicin, one of the most beneficial high blood pressure natural remedies,” says Abbas.

10. PLAY AN INSTRUMENT

PICK up a violin, have a go plonking out a tune on a piano, or try drumming. 

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A new study in the Netherlands Heart Journal found musicians have lower blood pressure than non-musicians, possibly because playing an instrument can be as physically demanding as exercise.

If you are worried about your blood pressure, always speak to you GP.





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