Real Life | Is your heart under pressure?

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Irish women are more likely to die from heart conditions than breast cancer but few take much care or heed of their primary organ. Here is how to reduce the risk of an unhealthily high blood pressure.

Do you know if your blood pressure is on spec? If not, you are not alone. While we tend to fret and worry about getting cancer or other diseases, we fail to look after our heart. Perhaps it is because we tend to associate this condition with men, or there is simply a lack of awareness of the disease.

However, that is changing. The Irish Heart Foundation is currently running a ‘Red Alert’ campaign to highlight that cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of women in Ireland.

Indeed, our very own publisher Norah Casey is the ambassador for this pivotal campaign. Norah, like so many other people dotted around Ireland, has endured the pain of losing someone to a heart condition and so is perfectly placed to highlight the care that is required. She lost her own father to a heart attack when he was just 69 years old.

Here are some ways to reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Tame the drinks. Drinking more than the recommended guidelines (11 standard drinks a week for women) can lead to sustained rises in blood pressure. Excess drinking can also lead to weight gain, which is another major contributor to high blood pressure.

Pass on the salt. Salt causes water retention, which increases blood volume and, consequently, raises blood pressure. Not adding salt to your food and avoiding foods that have high salt content (such as ready meals) are the easiest things you can do to help lower your blood pressure.

Increase physical activity. Exercise can have a massive positive impact as far as blood pressure is concerned. Movements that are repetitive, rhythmic and work on large muscle groups can benefit your heart the most.

Eat well. Obviously, a good diet can really help your heart with fruit and veg the most important foods in your diet. For a serious potassium punch, go for bananas, mushrooms, potatoes and dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale.