High blood pressure is experienced by around one-third of Britons, although not many will know about it according to the NHS. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is too high is to have your blood pressure checked out. If you are someone who is particularly susceptible to high levels of blood pressure, then you need to get your blood pressure measured more often to ensure you stay on top of it and keep it within the realms of medical safety.
You’re likely to be more at risk of developing high blood pressure if you:
- Are overweight
- Eat too much salt, not enough fruit and veg
- Do not do enough exercise
- Drink too much alcohol, coffee or other caffeine-based drinks
- Smoke cigarettes
- Don’t get much sleep, or have disturbed sleep
- Are aged over 65
- Have a relative with hypertension or high blood pressure
- Live in a deprived area.
Reduce your salt intake
Even a small drop in the amount of salt you eat can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about six mm Hg if you have hypertension.
The effect of salt intake on blood pressure varies among population groups, but in general, you should be limiting ingestion to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less.
However, a lower salt intake of 1,500mg or less is ideal and recommended for most adults.
To reduce salt, consider:
- Reading food labels and steering clear of “red” labelled salty foods
- Eating less processed foods, as this is when most of the salt is added into foods
- Don’t add extra salt, try using herbs and spices to flavour your food instead
- Cut back gradually if it’s a big part of your diet and cutting down feels like hard work
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Reduce your stress levels
Chronic stress may contribute greatly to hypertension, but more research is needed to determine the exact effects of chronic stress on blood pressure.
Occasional stress can contribute to the condition if you react to anxiety-inducing situations by eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
Take some time to think about what’s causing your stress – whether it be work, family, finances or personal illness.
Once you’ve put your finger on what’s causing the anguish, consider how you can eliminate or reduce its effects from your life.
If you can’t eliminate all your stressors, at least try to cope with them in a healthier way, by:
- Changing your expectations – for example, avoid trying to do too much and learn to say no
- Focus on issues you can control and try and solve them – such as if you’re having conflict at work, take steps to fix it
- Avoid stress triggers – for example, if rush-hour traffic is causing you stress, try leaving earlier, and avoid people who cause you stress if possible
- Make time for yourself – such as making time to sit in a quiet spot and breathe deeply every day, and allow hobbies and activities into your schedule
- Practice gratitude – expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your levels of stress
If you haven’t already, one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself and your body is to incorporate regular exercise into your life.
Regular physical activity, such as 150 minutes of walking a week, or about 30 minutes for most days of the week, can lower your blood pressure by about five to eight mm Hg.
However, consistency is key here as if you stop exercising then your blood pressure will just rocket back up.
If you have elevated blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension, while if you already have it, regular physical activity can bring it down to normal and safer levels.
Some examples of cardio exercises to try include:
- High-Intensity Interval Training
- Strength training (at east two days a week)
If you are not sure how to get started, contact your GP about developing an exercise regime right for you and your life.