Have you been told you have high blood pressure? If so, it’s important to make some healthy changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. There are plenty of simple steps you can take to lower your blood pressure and get your health back on track.
Ways to Lower your Blood Pressure
Eat a Healthy Diet
Having a healthy, balanced diet has many benefits, and helping to lower your blood pressure is one of them. Try to limit your intake of unhealthy fats and have five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. You should also limit the amount of caffeine you have. Drinking more than four cups of coffee a day is bad for your blood pressure.
Most importantly, you need to cut down on salt. Salt helps to increase blood pressure, so aim to have no more than 6g a day. Remember, this doesn’t just mean not adding salt to your chips – salt is already present in many foods. Make sure you check the nutritional information on foods before you eat them.
Engaging in enough physical activity is an important part of managing blood pressure. If you’re not used to being active, introduce exercise to your routine gradually. The NHS recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise each week, which can easily be broken down into short, manageable sessions. This can include jogging, cycling or many other calorie-burning activities. Even brisk walking counts.
Aim for a Healthy Weight
If you’re overweight or obese, your blood pressure is likely to be higher, so it will be helpful to try to lose some weight. The above tips – following a healthy diet and being physically active – will help you to shed some excess fat and work towards a healthy weight. Your goal should be to reach a healthy body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measure of your body fat based on height and weight, and a normal BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9. The NHS website has a BMI calculator to help you determine yours.
Cut Down on Alcohol
Regularly drinking alcohol over a long period of time increases your risk of high blood pressure. If you drink frequently, you need to cut down. Men shouldn’t be drinking more than three to four units per day, and women should limit their intake to no more than two or three units a day. Make sure you’re aware of what counts as a unit because they add up quickly. You might find it helpful to download an alcohol tracking app which can calculate your intake for you, as well as helping you to cut down.
If you’re currently a smoker, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Along with a number of other negative effects on your health, smoking directly affects your blood pressure and increases your risk of heart disease or stroke. If you need help, see your GP, who can enrol you in a ‘stop smoking clinic’, prescribe nicotine replacement therapy, or provide you with medication that will help you quit. You could also join your local NHS Stop Smoking Service, where you’ll have the support of advisors and other smokers trying to quit.
Stress has a negative impact on your blood pressure, so relaxing can reduce it. Try to engage in stress-relieving activities such as exercise or arts and crafts. You might also find meditation or yoga helpful. If you find yourself frequently stressed and are struggling to cope with it, you can even take a stress-management course.
If you have high blood pressure, these types of changes are essential, but it’s helpful to follow these tips even if you don’t. Living a healthy lifestyle in general can help to prevent high blood pressure in the first place.
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