Five effective ways to lower your blood pressure
It’s one of the biggest single causes of death in the UK, often has no apparent symptoms and is preventable, but how many of us know what our blood pressure is, or more importantly, what it should be. According to a survey by Blood Pressure UK, as many as 6.5 million people in the UK are unaware of their blood pressure reading yet live daily with undiagnosed hypertension. High blood pressure should never be ignored as it can lead to several health complications like heart disease and even death. While medications may be necessary to lower your blood pressure, reducing high blood pressure at home is possible with dedication and the right tactics.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as ‘hypertension’, rarely has visible symptoms but can cause serious health complications in the long term. It’s when your heart has to consistently work harder to pump blood around your body. If untreated, the arteries can stiffen and narrow, making it easier for fatty material to clog them up and cause heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
What increases your risk of having high blood pressure?
People at greater risk of high blood pressure include older adults (those over 65), those who are overweight, eat too much salt, don’t exercise enough, drink too much alcohol or caffeine, those who smoke, or have a family history of high blood pressure.
How do you know if you have high blood pressure?
As high blood pressure often doesn’t have any symptoms, the only way to know for certain if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked. You can check your own blood pressure by using a home blood pressure monitor, or you can visit a GP, that offers a blood pressure check service. A normal blood pressure reading is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. A test is easy, and having it done can help you understand your blood pressure reading and whether it is low, normal, or high. It can also help you understand whether you need to consider any lifestyle changes or treatment to stabilise it and improve your overall health.
How to lower your blood pressure
You can manage your blood pressure and help keep it safe by following some simple lifestyle advice.
Minimise your salt intake
Making sure the amount of salt you consume is less than 6g a day (about a teaspoonful) can have a positive impact. Read food labels and avoid foods very high in salt like crisps, chips, salted nuts, processed foods and cheese, and consider choosing healthier alternatives.
Add more potassium to your diet
Not only does potassium regulate heart rate, but it can also reduce the effects of sodium in the body. Potassium helps your body get rid of sodium and eases tension in your blood vessel walls, both of which help to lower blood pressure further.
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol can deplete the body of magnesium and potassium and cause dehydration. Alcohol also increases stress levels, which causes elevated blood pressure over time.
Reduce stress levels
Chronic stress can lead to elevations in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones constrict the arteries and cause weight gain, which further increases blood pressure. Incorporate stress-relieving activities and habits into your day, like meditation, breathing exercises, spending time in nature, getting better quality sleep, and taking breaks throughout the day.
Lose weight if you’re overweight
With less weight, the heart and arteries do not have to work as hard. The heart muscle and the muscles in the arteries do not thicken as rapidly. Thickening can lead to further increases in blood pressure because of reduced give or elasticity of blood vessels. Ideally, your waist size should be no more than half your height, and your BMI should be under 25.
Talk to a professional about the weight loss support options, such as the Allurion Gastric Balloon. Seeking advice from a nutritional therapist can also help you develop healthier eating habits and meal plans that really work for you.
What about medication?
There are a few ways of lowering blood pressure using tablets, and your GP will advise you on the most appropriate treatment pathway. But lifestyle habits are equally, if not more, important.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.