High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading

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High blood pressure means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This extra effort is a precursor to having a heart attack so it’s vital to reverse a high blood pressure reading. Medication may be required to lower high blood pressure but you can also lower hypertension by making simple lifestyle modifications.

An article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has outlined the most important lifestyle modifications for reducing high blood pressure.

The article advises the following:

  • Sodium reduction (optimal goal 1.5 g/day)
  • Potassium supplementation (3.5 to 5.0 g/day) preferably by consumption of a potassium-rich diet unless contraindicated in the presence of chronic kidney disease or use of medication that reduces potassium excretion
  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet (eight to ten servings of fruit and vegetables daily, whole grains, low sodium, low-fat proteins)
  • Waist circumference – 102 cm (40 inches) for men and 88 cm (35 inches) for women; weight loss to a BMI of about 25 kg/m²
  • Increased physical activity: at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, dynamic aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming) five days per week to total 150 minutes per week, as tolerated or recommended by physician
  • Limited alcohol consumption: No more than two standard drinks per day in hypertensive men; One standard drink per day in hypertensive women. Total weekly alcohol consumption should not exceed 14 standard drinks (140 g) for men and eight standard drinks (80 g) for women.

“Smoking cessation should always be encouraged as well, to promote general vascular health, though smoking cessation has not been associated with decreased blood pressure,” states the BMJ article.

The article does not rule out medication but advises engaging in a “three-month trial” of the above lifestyle changes first.

This will help to determine whether a “pharmacological therapy” is necessary, the BMJ article says.

The six lifestyle recommendations should all help to promote weight loss.

According to the NHS, being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.

“If you do need to lose some weight, it’s worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health,” notes the health body.

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What counts as a healthy weight?

The most widely used method to check if you’re a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI).

BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height.

For most adults, a BMI of:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 means you’re a healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 means you’re overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 means you’re obese
  • 40 or above means you’re severely obese.

According to the NHS, BMI is not used to diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular can have a high BMI without much fat.

Where can I get my blood pressure measured or tested?

You can get your blood pressure checked at:

  • GP surgeries
  • some pharmacies
  • some workplaces
  • an NHS health check.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), as many as five million adults in the UK have undiagnosed high blood pressure, so will not know that they are at risk.

As the BHF points out, the only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.

“So, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked.”

You can also test your blood pressure at home using a home testing kit.

“Like 24-hour or ambulatory monitoring, this can give a better reflection of your blood pressure,” explains the NHS.

According to the health body, it can also allow you to monitor your condition more easily in the long term.

You can buy a variety of low-cost monitors so you can test your blood pressure at home or while you’re out and about.

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