Blood pressure is often described as the silent killer as it doesn’t usually show any symptoms unless you have a monitor. An unhealthy lifestyle raises your blood pressure over time. The higher your blood pressure becomes, the higher the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Research from the British Heart Foundation suggests that a whopping 5.7 million UK adults are living with undiagnosed hypertension
The good news is that if you have high blood pressure or if you think you might be at risk, then a change in your diet and lifestyle can help to bring it down.
But what specifically helps to reduce your blood pressure?
Regular physical activity
You should be doing moderate intensity activity every day. It is recommended that you build up at least 150 minutes each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more according to the British Heart Foundation.
Keep a healthy weight
Losing weight is one of the best ways to bring your blood pressure down to a normal level.
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Eating the right meal sizes and making sure you include items from each food group in your diet is important. Make sure that you include a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Cut down on salt
Salt is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to high blood pressure. Don’t cook with salt or add any to your food when you eat. Processed foods contain a lot of salt, so you should also reduce these in your diet.
Don’t drink too much
Stick to the recommended alcohol limits. 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women.
Take your medicines as prescribed
Anyone who has high blood pressure will need to take more than one type of medicine to help control it. It’s important not to stop taking medication unless you’ve consulted your GP first.
Understanding your blood pressure
Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, shown as one on top of the other and measured in mmHg (millimetres of mercury).
If your blood pressure reading is 120/80mmHg your doctor or nurse may refer to it as 120 over 80.
The top number represents the highest level that your blood pressure reaches when your heart contracts and pumps blood through your arteries – known as systolic pressure.
The bottom number represents the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.
According to Blood Pressure UK:
“When and how often you take readings will depends on your blood pressure. Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you.
“It can be useful to monitor your blood pressure closely at first, then less often but at regular intervals.
When you first start, you should measure your blood pressure morning and evening, every day for a week, said the charity.
“Discard your first day’s blood pressure readings – they may not be accurate because you are not familiar with your monitor.
“At the end of the week you will have a useful picture of what your blood pressure is like normally. You can then take readings less often. Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you.”
British Heart Foundation (2019). High blood pressure: how can we do better? Accessible: https://www.bhf.org.uk/for-professionals/healthcare-professionals/commissioning-and-services/service-innovation/bp-how-can-we-do-better. Last Accessed: 30 July 2019.
British Heart Foundation. (2019). How to reduce your blood pressure: 6 top tips. Accessible: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/research/blood-pressure/blood-pressure-tips. Last Accessed: 25 June 2019.
NHS. (2019). High blood pressure (hypertension). Accessible: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/. Last Accessed: 25 June 2019.