If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you're certainly not alone. It is estimated that around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure (a reading of 140 over 90 or more) and it is one of the most common conditions treated by the medical profession in this country.1
High blood pressure does not necessarily show any symptoms even when dangerously high which means it can go completely unnoticed unless it's checked by a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. However, high blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart attack.
Because of this it is highly recommended you get your blood pressure tested on a regular basis to keep you alert of your circumstances and condition.
Although there are medications available to help lower blood pressure, it can normally be controlled by making some prudent lifestyle changes. If you have high blood pressure, you may want to consider some of the points below to help manage and ultimately lower it:
• Take steps to ensure you keep a healthy body weight - you should look to keep your BMI under 25 to help maintain a healthy blood pressure level. You should also look to keep your waist line trim, as men with a waist of 40in and above and women who have waists of 35in and over are at increased risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
• Get out and exercise - just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day is all it should take but if you are not used to exercise make sure you take things steady until you are more comfortable. If you already exercise on a regular basis, you might want to increase the amount of vigorous exercise you undertake.
• If you smoke - stop - blood pressure levels climb immediately when you smoke, and the tobacco chemicals within the smoke damage artery walls making you more prone to high blood pressure in the future.
• Limit the amount of salt you eat - salt can make your body retain fluid, which will increase your blood pressure. There is plenty of salt in a lot of food we eat already so resist the temptation to add extra salt at the dinner table.
• Increase the amount of potassium in your diet - this will help to offset the negative effects of excess sodium. You can do this by eating more potatoes and bananas and drinking more orange juice.
• Keep alcohol in check - excessive drinking can damage your arteries and drinking more than two or three glasses per day on a regular basis can see your blood pressure levels rise.
• Effectively manage your stresses - take plenty of exercise and ensure you get enough sleep to control your stress, otherwise your blood pressure can race up when you're feeling under pressure.
1. Health Survey for England 2009, Volume 1 Health and Lifestyles; NHS Information Centre (16 December 2010)