High blood pressure: Three fish to avoid if you’re worried about high blood pressure
High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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Your blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day but consistently high blood pressure forces your heart to work overtime – this can raise your risk of a serious cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. Fortunately, you can reduce a high blood pressure reading by overhauling your diet.
Fish is regarded as a key component of a heart-healthy diet, although research published in the journal Hypertension did uncover a surprising association between fish intake and increases in blood pressure.
The research linked mercury in seafood with high blood pressure, although this isn’t reason enough for most people to stop eating fish, the study lead stressed.
“The small increase of blood pressure due to methylmercury will never outweigh the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids,” said Doctor Eric Dewailly, a professor in the department of social and preventive medicine at Laval University in Quebec and lead author of the report.
Mercury is a worldwide pollutant transported by air and water throughout the planet, posing a particular challenge to global health.
On the one hand, mercury is recognised as one of the most dangerous environmental contaminants.
On the other hand, fish – a very nutritious food – is the major vehicle for its transmission to humans in its organic form, methylmercury (MeHg).
However, extensive research has demonstrated that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, such as fatty sardines, herring, trout and salmon, are associated with a reduced risk of death from heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease.
So, while you should eat plenty of the right type of fish, you might want to think carefully about tucking into fish that bring less benefit.
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Anyone worried about blood pressure should avoid fish that have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high mercury content, such as big predator fish, including swordfish, marlin and shark, said Professor Dewailly in a statement at the time of the study’s publication.
What the study found
The Canadian study appeared to show a link between high blood pressure and methylmercury, which is found in fish.
Professor Dewailly and his colleagues conducted a survey of Inuit residents of 14 Nunavik communities in northern Quebec, where the traditional diet is based on fish and marine mammals.
It found an average blood mercury level of 50 nanomoles per litre of blood, much higher than that of the general population.
It also found a relationship between blood mercury levels and blood pressure after adjusting for other factors, such as smoking and physical activity.
Studies have shown that exposure to environmental mercury can affect the endothelium, the delicate lining of blood vessels, and decrease the ability of smooth muscles to relax, which could explain the slight increase in blood pressure seen in the study, Professor Dewailly said.
He stressed that it was not a great effect.
“For every 10 percent increase in blood mercury level, there is a 0.2 millimeter increase in blood pressure,” Professor Dewailly said.
“Even if you apply that to an entire population, that is a small effect.”
So, a 10 percent increase in blood mercury would raise a blood pressure reading from 120/80 to 120.2/80, Professor Dewailly suggested.
That is not a reason to avoid fish “if you look at the fish nutrients that are reported to be associated with so many benefits”, he said.
According to the NHS, you should also cut own on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to lower your blood pressure.
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