Did you know more than one in four adults have high blood pressure (hypertension)? If ignored, this increases the risk of more serious health problems, including a heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, the symptoms are rarely noticeable. But luckily, there is a lot you can do yourself to reduce high blood pressure, starting with keeping an eye on your numbers.
Most of us will wait until our next visit to the doctors to have our blood pressure checked. But having your own blood pressure monitor at home means you can take greater control of your health. At-home blood pressure monitors are simple to use, and Salter makes understanding your results even easier with a colour-coded display. So you'll know when to get in touch with your GP for professional medical help.
Before you begin, you'll want to know what the numbers on the screen mean. Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to push blood around your body. The reading consists of two numbers – the first number is the systolic pressure, and the second is diastolic pressure, which is the lower value.
- Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Blood pressure between 120-129/80 is elevated blood pressure
- Blood pressure of 130/80 or above is considered high.
Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg
could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is extremely variable and increases due to stress, emotional state and physical activity. You might find that your results are slightly different from one day to the next or even over the course of a day. Just remember this slight variation in results is perfectly normal.
For some, there is no obvious cause, but there are some small changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to help reduce blood pressure and keep it low.
CAUSES OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Being overweight can increase the risk of high blood pressure. For some, losing just 5-10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. You should aim to lose weight slowly, to increase your chances of maintaining a healthy weight. Reduce your calorie intake by avoiding foods that contain a lot of added sugar like sugar-sweetened drinks, confectionery, cakes, and set yourself realistic targets.
It is well known that regular exercise does wonders for the body, including lowering blood pressure and strengthening the heart. If you have high blood pressure, start with short, frequent workouts before slowly increasing the time spent exercising. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise will help. Walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are fun ways to keep fit and reduce stress.
Reduce Salt Consumption
Many foods such as bread, cereals and ready meals tend to have high quantities of salt. When shopping for food, it is best to check the labels or make your own wherever you can so you can easily monitor your salt intake. The target is to have less than 6g of salt a day. You can also use herbs and spices to flavour your food instead.
Eat Your Five a Day
We are all aware that we should eat at least five portions of fruit & veg a day. Many fruit and vegetables contain potassium which helps balance excess salt (sodium) in the body. Examples of potassium-rich foods include bananas, apricots, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits like oranges.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Many alcoholic drinks are high in calories, and you could be unknowingly gaining weight due to your beverage choices. NHS UK recommends that men and women should not exceed 14 units of alcohol in a week. Try to make sure you have drink-free days and try a non-alcoholic alternative.
Cut the Caffeine
NHS guidance recommends 400mg as the upper limit. For reference, one mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg. Whilst there is nothing wrong with tea or coffee as part of a balanced diet. If you drink quite a few cups a day, switching to decaf can help.