High blood pressure is often called a ‘silent killer’ because, if left untreated, it can increase your risk of developing a number of serious long-term health conditions such as kidney and coronary heart disease.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. If you have high blood pressure, your readings sit consistently at 140 over 90 or higher.
The tricky thing about high blood pressure is that it often doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms, so the only way to know your risk is to have yours measured by your GP.
If your reading is high, doctors can help you to keep your blood pressure to a safe level by prescribing certain medications, but lifestyle changes can help to combat the issue too.
Here are just a few that your GP may recommend.
1. Get waist wise
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight is one of the most effective things you can do to lower your blood pressure.
Safe and sustainable weight loss can be achieved through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Some people find that tracking the food they eat with an app or in a diary can help them stick to a calorie limit.
“Women should have a waist that is less than 80cm (31.5in) while men should aim to be under 94cm (37in),” says GP Dr Carrie Ruxton, speaking on behalf of the Tea Advisory Panel.
2. Be active
It’s no secret that exercise is good for you and lowering your blood pressure is just one of its many benefits. A 2013 study found that inactive older adults who took part in daily aerobic exercise were able to significantly reduce their blood pressure over time.
“Aerobic exercise is best for your heart and circulation, so get out for a jog, take up dancing, use the stairs more often or take a swim,” says Dr Ruxton. “Experts suggest that at least 30 minutes a day is optimal.”
3. Cook with beetroot
Putting more purple on your plate could help to cut your risk of heart disease. “Clinical trials show that beetroot is rich in nitrates, which the human body converts into biologically active nitric oxide,” says Dr Ruxton.
“This chemical relaxes and dilates blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.”
Try a delicious beetroot salad or soup, or add some of this root vegetable to your juices and smoothies.
4. Banish the booze
Knowing you have high blood pressure may be the kick you need to think about limiting or saying goodbye to alcohol completely.
“While the odd glass of red wine could be helpful to your heart, regular bouts of drinking are definitely not,” says Dr Ruxton. “Cutting back on alcohol can also save on calories, which can help you to lose weight.
“Try going dry for a month or set aside several alcohol-free days a week.”
A cup of caffeine-free tea could help too. “Hibiscus tea is particularly effective for those with high blood pressure. A study in the Journal of Hypertension found that this colourful tea could significantly lower blood pressure,” Dr Ruxton adds.
5. Cut down on salt
Salt encourages your body to retain water, which puts strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart and brain, and raises your blood pressure, according to Blood Pressure UK. If you have high blood pressure, try not to cook with salt and don’t have it as an option on the table.
It’s also a good idea to cut back on processed foods, as these can contain a lot of hidden salt too. Instead, prepare your own meals and buy fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. If you feel your food is lacking in flavour, try adding fresh herbs or spices instead of too much seasoning.
Do you get your blood pressure checked regularly?
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