High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can increase the chances of serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. If you have high blood pressure, then reducing it even a little bit can help reduce the risks of developing serious illnesses.
According to the NHS, around a third of Brits have high blood pressure, although not many will be aware of it. The NHS says it is not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are ways to help reduce the risk, such as making lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and ensuring you have a healthy diet.
But there are also foods you should avoid having in your diet, such as processed or sugary foods, which can be the worst offenders for causing high blood pressure.
There are also some food and drinks that appear to be healthier choices, but in fact, you need to cut them out of your diet. For example, fruit juice might seem like a healthy choice but often can contain as much sugar as a non-diet soft drink.
While sports drinks are associated with a healthier lifestyle, they can also be loaded with sugar to provide instant energy, and even protein bars can contain as much sugar as a regular chocolate bar.
The NHS suggests that to lower high blood pressure you should cut back on alcohol, lose weight if you’re overweight, exercise regularly, cut down on caffeine and stop smoking.
If your GP has diagnosed you with hypertension, then they will likely recommend taking one or more medicines to help manage it and keep it under control.
While high blood pressure may not always be a symptom of an underlying cause, about one in 20 cases of hypertension are the result of an underlying health condition or from taking certain medications.
Healthy adults aged over 40 should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years, though the NHS says if you’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure, you should have your blood pressure checked more often.
However, having raised blood pressure from one test does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure. Your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day, and feeling stressed or anxious while visiting your GP can also raise your blood pressure.
As a general guide, high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher, or 150/80mmHg or higher if you are over the age of 80.
Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
But what do these numbers mean? Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The higher number is the systolic pressure, the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body, while the lower number, the diastolic pressure, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Both are also measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
According to the Mayo Clinic, a blood pressure measurement of higher than 180/120mmHg is an emergency that requires immediate medical care.
It’s never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and getting more exercise. These are the main ways to protect yourself against high blood pressure and its complications.
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