Have you had your blood pressure checked recently? At least one-quarter of Australian adults have high blood pressure, and while a person of any age can have the condition, more than half of these with high blood pressure are aged over 60.
A doctor can check your blood pressure using a simple test. This is the only way to know your blood pressure health.
According to The Heart Foundation:
Normal blood pressure: generally less than 120/80 mmHg
Normal to high blood pressure: between 120/80 and 140/90 mmHg
High blood pressure: 140/90 mmHg or higher
High blood pressure (hypertension) can be caused by a number of things, such as stress, poor health or nutrition, lack of exercise or a heredity predisposition. The good news is that lowering and maintaining a healthy blood pressure usually only means making a few small changes.
1. Healthy eating
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is imperative to lowering your blood pressure and keeping it at a healthy level. Be sure to include plenty of foods from the five major food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and dairy.
Drinking enough water (around two litres per day) is highly recommended.
2. Reduce the salt
Excessive salt in the diet is the one of the most common reasons for high blood pressure. Australians are recommended to consume less than 4g, or 1,600mg of sodium, per day. This is no more than a teaspoon.
The easiest way to reduce salt in your diet is to cut out processed foods, and stop adding it to your meals. If you are the person who is responsible for cooking meals, always make sure to taste the food as you go, and see if it needs salt.
As a person ages, their tastebuds start fading, so the taste of food isn’t as strong. This can lead to excessive use of salt to try to bring back the flavours. Instead of piling on the sodium, try using alternatives to amp-up the flavour, such as chillies, spices and herbs.
Another way to consume less salt is to stop it entering the house. When you’re shopping, check the dietary labels on the back of food packets. Look for foods with 120mg of sodium per 100g or less.
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3. Healthy lifestyle
To lower your blood pressure you should aim to increase your exercise. Exercise is particularly beneficial for weight control and all-round cardiovascular health. It is recommended that Australians get around 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, five times a week, even if it’s just walking. Weight loss will probably require around 45 – 60 minutes most days of the week.
Activities can include running, cycling, dancing, swimming or anything which gets your heart-rate up. If you’re not used to exercising, check with your doctor about how much exercise you should take on.
4. Limit your alcohol intake and quit smoking
The recommended healthy alcohol intake limits for men and women are no more than two standard drinks on any day. Limiting your liquor also reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related diseases, such as kidney damage.
While smoking won’t cause high blood pressure, is does increase the risk of a plethora of other cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease. Quitting smoking is particularly important for people who already have high blood pressure.
As well as asking you to make the above lifestyle changes, your doctor may decide whether you should take medication to help lower your blood pressure.
If your doctor tells you to start taking medication for high blood pressure, advise him or her of any other medications which you might also be taking, as some can counteract the effects of blood pressure medication. Some drugs, such as migraine medications, weight-loss drugs, cough and cold medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can increase your blood pressure, and throw off your blood pressure medication.
Find out more at Healthdirect