The higher your blood pressure becomes so does the risk of you suffering a stroke or heart attack. If you live an unhealthy lifestyle your blood pressure will rise over time. On a more positive note, if you have high blood pressure, you can lower it by implementing healthy lifestyle changes.
Lower your salt intake as too much can raise your blood pressure. Eat as little as possible if you have high blood pressure. This can be so effective that some people have managed to avoid medicines to lower their blood pressure just by cutting right down on salt. Do not add salt to your meals as the food already contains it in most meals especially foods such as bread, cereals and ready meals. When you are shopping go for the low-salt foods by checking the labels.
As an adult you should not eat any more than 6g of salt a day but many people eat more than this. This is because most of the salt we consume is hidden in processed foods. Only 20 % of the salt we eat is that which we add ourselves whilst cooking or at the table.
Increase your intake of fruit and veg! They help to lower your blood pressure. You should be eating a varied range of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day (a portion being the size of your fist or 80g). You can eat tinned, frozen or dried fruits and vegetables as part of this intake but do check out the sugar, salt and fat content of these products. Fresh is best! To get an idea of how much an 80g portion of fruit and vegetables is see below:
• 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
• 1 dessert bowl of salad
• 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils etc)
• 2-3 tablespoons of grapes or berries
• 1 glass (150ml) of vegetable or fruit juice
• 1 tablespoon of dried fruit
• 1 medium-sized fruit like an apple, pear, orange or banana
• 2 smaller fruits like plums, apricots or satsumas
• 1 slice of a large fruit like a pineapple, melon or mango
Maintain a healthy weight. Being over-weight increases your blood pressure so if you need to lose some you can make changes to your diet choosing low-calorie and low-fat options. Increase your physical activity and set yourself realistic and achievable goals that you can stick to for life. Find out what your BMI (body mass index) is:
• Less than 18.5 – means you are underweight and need to gain weight
• 18.5 – 24.9 – you are within the healthy weight range and should continue to eat healthily
• 25 – 29.9 – you are overweight so you need to lose some weight
• 30 – 35 – you are obese and need to lose weight to improve your health
• More than 35 – you are very obese and need to visit your doctor
Cut down on your alcohol intake. Over time too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure. Recommendations are currently fourteen units per week for women and twenty-one units per week for men. If you can adhere to these recommendations you are more likely to keep your blood pressure down. To help you drink alcohol sensibly without worrying too much about your blood pressure read these tips:
• Give the low-alcohol type beverages a go
• Check the units on the label so you have a better idea as to how much you are consuming
• Add mixers or water to your drink or have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks
• Avoid bar snacks like nuts and crisps as the high salt content will make you want to drink more
• Use a measure at home to have a better idea of how many units you are drinking
Regularly exercise to help lower your blood pressure. Ideally you should be taking about thirty minutes of exercise five times a week. This can be light exercise that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Physical activity will cause your blood pressure to rise for a short time but when you stop it should return to normal and the quicker it does, the fitter you probably are.
By Eirian Hallinan