Megan Sheppard: high blood pressure runs in the family - what can I do? 

This week Megan Sheppard answers your questions about how to prevent high blood pressure and explains the reason behind sudden nosebleeds 
Megan Sheppard: high blood pressure runs in the family - what can I do? 

A good diet and regular exercise is the best foundation for heart heath but other foods like cinnamon can help. File picture

Q1. High blood pressure runs in my family. I eat well, exercise regularly, and my blood pressure is within the normal range. Is there anything else I can do?

A. First, I want to commend you on taking steps to reduce or prevent the likelihood of developing blood pressure issues given your family history. It is much easier to get in front of conditions where diet and lifestyle are key factors than it is to try to reverse damage after the fact.

Eating well and exercising regularly is already setting a good foundation for your heart and circulatory health. You can also add in simple dietary tweaks, such as adding cinnamon to your meals. A quarter of a teaspoon daily is enough to assist in the prevention of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Cinnamon works by helping the fat cells to respond to insulin and increase glucose removal, thus keeping blood sugar levels in check. Healthy fatty acids such as those in oily fish, nuts, and seeds are crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
It is common to focus on cholesterol levels when it comes to monitoring heart health, but a better indicator is to keep an eye on your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced as the body breaks down methionine, and it damages the artery lining by restricting the elasticity and size of the vessels.

Patrick Holford and Dr James Braly have written a very informative book, The H Factor, which outlines in great detail the role homocysteine plays in general wellbeing, and how you can keep your homocysteine levels in check. You can either have your GP check your homocysteine levels for you, or do it yourself with a Homocysteine Test Kit.

Finally, if you have a high-stress job or lifestyle then it is important to take steps to regulate stress levels. Yoga, Qi gong, and meditation are all great options, along with simply making time to rest and recover and do things that you enjoy. If you are under pressure daily at work or home, then it is possible you may need to supplement with a good B-vitamin complex.

Q2. My teenage daughter gets occasional sudden nosebleeds, which can be embarrassing if she's out and about. What would you suggest?

Vitamin deficiencies are a common cause to occasional nosebleeds. File picture 
Vitamin deficiencies are a common cause to occasional nosebleeds. File picture 

A. There are a number of reasons that may be behind your daughter’s surprise nosebleeds. It could be as simple as a nutrient deficiency or the blood vessels being closer to the surface than usual. It is common for spontaneous nosebleeds to occur in dry heated environments.

The most common deficiencies when it comes to nosebleeds are vitamins K and C. Vitamin K — found in leafy green vegetables, raw milk and yoghurt, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, oats, rye — is well known as helping the blood to clot effectively when it needs to. Your daughter will need 50-100ug (micrograms) of vitamin K1 daily.

Along with nosebleeds, vitamin K deficiency is often indicated by heavy menstrual bleeding, bruising, anaemia, and bleeding gums. In more severe cases it can lead to haemorrhage, calcification of soft tissues, gastrointestinal bleeding, osteoporosis, prolonged clotting times, and haematomas.

Vitamin C is required in the synthesis of collagen, which holds together the tissues of the body, and it is essential to the integrity of the walls of the capillaries. Much like with vitamin K deficiency, low levels of vitamin C can cause bruising, soft and bleeding gums, slow-healing wounds, haemorrhage, anaemia, and painful or swollen joints. The best dietary sources of vitamin C include kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and red capsicum.

One of the best herbal remedies to help prevent and staunch sudden blood flow is Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). Use a heaped teaspoon of shepherd’s purse per cup of near-boiling water, and drink 3-4 cups daily. This common weed is also used by herbalists to treat a heavy menstrual flow.

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