Blood pressure - the facts

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.

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.

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.

Blood pressure basics

Blood pressure refers to the outward pressure that blood exerts against the inside of your artery walls. The two blood pressure values refer to the highest (systolic) and lowest (diastolic) pressure that the blood reaches during each heartbeat cycle of contraction and relaxation.

A healthy systolic range is 100-140 and a healthy diastolic range is 60-90. As a general rule the lower your blood pressure is within the normal range, the lower your health risk.

Of course, blood pressure can also be too low, but unless you suffer from frequent dizziness and fainting, this isn't normally a problem. It can also be a temporary issue (normally experienced when you suddenly stand up) but this is just a drop in pressure while your body adjusts to being in a standing position, and will quickly go back to normal. This is usually nothing to worry about.

Lifestyle changes for a healthy blood pressure

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 waistline trim as fat accumulation in the abdominal area can also increase your 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 steadily until you are more comfortable. If your blood pressure is consistently over 140/90 then you should take further guidance from your doctor before you try any strenuous exercise.

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, cholesterol build-up, heart attack and stroke in the future.

Limit the amount of sodium you eat
- sodium (contained in salt) can make your body retain fluid, which can increase your blood pressure. There is plenty of sodium in a lot of food we eat already so resist the temptation to add extra salt at the dinner table - your 'salt taste' will soon adapt. Check the label - less than 0.3 g of salt per 100 g of food is classed as low-salt whereas 1.5 g or more per 100 g of food is classed as high. The health daily limits are 6 g of salt per day which is equivalent to 2.4 g of sodium.

Increase the amount of potassium in your diet
- this can 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 increase your blood pressure levels.

Effectively manage your stresses
- blood pressure can race up when you're feeling under pressure so make sure you do what you can to manage your stresses positively by;


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