Why do your blood pressure numbers matter? Well, because high blood pressure doesn’t generally have any symptoms but it indicates a higher risk of heart disease or stroke. So it makes sense to get it checked regularly and to keep it within healthy limits.
If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90mmHg you will probably be advised by your healthcare professional to have it re-checked and monitored over a period of time, to see whether or not it stays consistently high – blood pressure varies during the day and one test is not enough to diagnose high blood pressure.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your blood pressure.
High salt intake is considered to be a major factor. Just a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can significantly reduce your blood pressure. Try looking at the labels on the products you buy. You’ll be amazed at the huge amount of salt contained in the most surprising of foods.
Eating a healthy diet; rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low in saturated fat can make a huge difference. And the very happy side effect of this is that, hopefully, you will lose some weight. Losing weight is one of the most effective methods of reducing blood pressure. In particular, keep an eye on your waist measurement. Extra weight that is carried around the waistline (giving you an ‘apple’ shape) is generally considered to put you more at risk of high blood pressure.
Reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake may also be beneficial. Try replacing some of your drinks with herbal or fruit teas, and good old fashioned water!
Besides the helpful effect on your blood pressure levels, these changes in your diet will give your general health and well-being a great boost, so there’s really nothing to lose.
Which brings me on to smoking. Smoking is widely acknowledged as bad for your health in so many ways and one of those is blood pressure, so quitting can only be a good thing.
Exercise can also make a big difference but it’s important to be consistent and remember this is a long term goal. A quick blast of exercise and then nothing is not likely to help. Try adding some walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming to your routine on a regular basis.
Stress contributes to high blood pressure and the other changes you may be making (like stopping smoking) may not be helping your stress levels. It’s well worth thinking about healthier ways of reducing your stress. Meditation and mindfulness are useful ways of keeping yourself calm in stressful situations and there are a number of groups and classes available these days.
If you’ve made all those lifestyle changes and you’re still stuck with high blood pressure, your doctor can prescribe medication to bring your blood pressure down to a healthy level. If you are taking medication your doctor will continue to monitor your blood pressure and take blood tests regularly to make sure the medication is working for you.
So keeping your blood pressure down doesn’t have to be difficult and it’s a step that’s well worth taking.