Simple changes make a big difference
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is often referred to as a “silent killer” because of the lack of obvious symptoms, until someone has a heart attack or stroke.
But the good news is that lifestyle changes can have a big effect in lowering blood pressure, even if you have a family history of the condition.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to get it checked regularly, but the following measures have the potential to bring it down (or not let it get high in the first place):
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
The NHS Eatwell Guide gives a useful overview of what could make up a balanced diet, and it’s particularly important to make sure you get enough fruit and vegetables from a blood pressure perspective (as well as for general health).
Consume less salt
Most of us eat more salt than recommended, and too much of it can increase the amount of water in blood vessels — causing arteries to narrow and blood pressure to increase.
Stop adding salt to cooking or at the table and check the labels on processed foods (look for green on the nutrition information panel). Salt can be found in some surprising places, including bread and cereals.
Get regular exercise
Physical activity has been shown to lower blood pressure, by reducing the stiffness of blood vessels so that blood can flow more freely.
In line with government public health guidelines, it’s advised to try to build up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week — or half the time if it’s vigorous exercise. Each exercise session should last at least 10 minutes.
Alcohol increases blood pressure in the short term, and frequent drinking can cause sustained high blood pressure.
Drinkers are recommended to consume fewer than 14 units of alcohol per week (as per government guidelines) and to have several days a week off the booze.
Reach or maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is a big risk factor for high blood pressure, because the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body.
Some people can get their blood pressure under control just by losing weight, which can be achieved with portion control, healthy eating and regular exercise. There is also a strong emotional element to weight management, which is addressed in our programme.