Know your numbers: The importance of blood pressure

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You’d be amazed how many people don’t know their blood pressure. According to the British Heart Foundation, around 7 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure. Surprising, when you consider the knock-on risks of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

Put simply, blood pressure is the force with which blood moves through your blood vessels around the body. People with high blood pressure generally feel perfectly well. You don’t look or feel different. Headaches, for instance, are not a common feature of high blood pressure. So the best way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get it tested before the effects strike.

This article is designed to inform people about high blood pressure in general. It is not designed for people diagnosed with high blood pressure and on treatment. If you’re concerned at all about your blood pressure, make an appointment with your GP.

Know Your Numbers

With the potential risks linked to high blood pressure, it's important to understand what your readings mean ...

Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic blood pressure – the higher value – is the force at which the heart contracts and blood is pumped through the arteries. Diastolic blood pressure – the lower value – is the lowest point of pressure between beats when the heart relaxes. A reading for people in good health would be below 120/80 and above 90/60.

6 Tips to Lower your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure can be reduced by making some simple lifestyle changes. Let's take a look at some ways you can start doing so now...

  1. Pass the salt

    There is a clear effect of salt on blood pressure: the more you eat the higher it goes. The effect is stronger in people who already have high blood pressure. Cutting down on salt is one of the simplest ways to lower your blood pressure, and will start to make a difference very quickly, even within weeks. Current guidelines suggest no more than 6g of salt per day - that’s about a teaspoon. But most of us are consuming way more than this. Salt is added to ready meals and even cereals to add flavour. Why not season your meals with spices like paprika, black pepper, and garlic instead?
  2. Reduce alcohol

    There’s a clear link between drinking a lot and high blood pressure.  Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure. If you do drink a lot, try to cut back and keep within the recommended weekly guidelines. This article about managing your alcohol intake might help.

  3. Watch your waist

    Blood pressure often increases as weight increases - so if you're overweight you may want to lose some lbs. But, it might be even more important to watch your waistline rather than your weight, because excess belly fat might lead to high blood pressure. Men should keep their waist under 40 inches, and women aim for below 35 inches. Find out more about how to measure your waist here.

  4. Exercise regularly

    Just 30 minutes per day can help to reduce your blood pressure, especially if you are older and overweight! Walking, cycling and swimming are good aerobic exercises that'll help you to keep your blood pressure down. You might also benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or strength training. If you're new to exercise, or you're not sure what exercise to choose, an Evergreen Life DNA test can help determine the best exercise to suit your unique genetics and health goals.

  5. Potassium-rich foods

    A balanced and healthy diet is obviously going to be good for your body... but a certain nutrient will help to reduce the negative effects that sodium has on blood pressure. It's potassium! As you eat more potassium you lose more sodium (salt) when you wee. Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.  Consider adding potassium-rich food sources like tomato paste/puree, salmon, sweet potato, white beans and (of course) bananas.

    However! Potassium can be harmful in patients with kidney disease, any condition that affects how the body handles potassium, or those who take certain medications so you should talk to you doctor before taking supplements and adding a lot of potassium to your diet.  
  6. Reduce your stress

    Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure, and especially if you react to it by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking. Of course, reducing stress is easier said than done. But, there are steps you can take to help. Firstly, start by identifying the cause of your stress and work on how you can resolve it - just deal with one issue at a time. Also, ensure you've got time to relax and unwind, to do the things you enjoy. In our recent survey, volunteering was something that a lot of people said helped them to improve their overall health and wellbeing. You might find our article on how to feel happier helpful.
It’s worth knowing that if you smoke and you have high blood pressure, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases. Another reason to give up!

If lifestyle changes cannot reduce your blood pressure enough you'll be prescribed medication by your doctor to help bring it under control and reduce your risk. With more than 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering from high blood pressure, it's so important for individuals to be able to keep a record and manage their own pressure levels.

Evergreen Life Personal Health Record app

 

The Evergreen Life app allows you to record your blood pressure information and keep track of your medication. Not only does it help you manage your own records and medication, it also allows you to share the information with carers, family members or healthcare professionals who can support you with your progress.

In the blood pressure section you can regularly update your blood pressure readings and view your progress on the timeline. The health and fitness monitor will also allow you to track the other benefits of your lifestyle changes, giving you an accurate summary in the palm of your hand.

Blood pressure checks are quick and painless but can be a life saver. So, get to know your numbers. The British and Irish Hypertension society has lots of advice about this. It provides a list of validated blood pressure monitors so you can check yours at home. Remember blood pressure goes up all the time depending on time of day, activity levels, stress etc. You only need to be concerned if your BP at home is consistently high over many weeks.

Under pressure?

If you’re concerned at all about your blood pressure, make an appointment with your GP – you can do this quickly and easily with the Evergreen Life app. Find out how to book an appointment in five easy steps.

References
Written by
Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA

Meet Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA, Strategy and Clinical Director at Evergreen Life, and a Medical Expert with more than 42 years' experience as a GP.

Article updated:
June 14, 2021
Reviewed by:
Dr James Harmsworth King MBBS MPhil PhD
Biotechnology & Medical Expert