High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.

Healthy diet

Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. The Eatwell Guide highlights the different types of food that make up our diet, and shows the proportions we should eat them in to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.

Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.

Find out how to cut down on salt.

Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre – such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta – and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure. Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Find out how to get your 5 A DAY.

Limit your alcohol intake

Regularly drinking alcohol above recommended limits can raise your blood pressure over time.

Staying within these recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Find out how many units are in your favourite drink and get tips on cutting down.

Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.

Find out how many calories are in popular drinks.

Lose weight

Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure.

Find out if you need to lose weight with the BMI healthy weight calculator.

If you do need to shed some weight, it's worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health.

Get tips on losing weight safely.

Get active

Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.

Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week.

Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening. Get more ideas on how to get active.

Cut down on caffeine

Drinking more than four cups of coffee a day may increase your blood pressure. 

If you're a big fan of coffee, tea or other caffeine-rich drinks, such as cola and some energy drinks, consider cutting down.

It's fine to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet, but it's important that these drinks are not your main or only source of fluid.

Stop smoking

Smoking doesn't directly cause high blood pressure, but it puts you at much higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Smoking, like high blood pressure, will cause your arteries to narrow. If you smoke and have high blood pressure, your arteries will narrow much more quickly, and your risk of heart or lung disease in the future is dramatically increased.

Get help to stop smoking.

Get a good night's sleep

Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with a rise in blood pressure and an increased risk of hypertension. It's a good idea to try to get at least six hours of sleep a night if you can.

Read some tips for getting to sleep if you find yourself struggling to get enough sleep.

Page last reviewed: 15/06/2016

Next review due: 15/06/2018