Is your blood pressure healthy?

It's thought that around 30% of people in England have high blood pressure, and many don't even know it. Though more than half of them are over 60, a large number are younger. Could you be one of them?

High blood pressure is common and often has no symptoms.

Check your blood pressure

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. Health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and GPs can check your blood pressure with a simple test. 

High blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but there are things you can do to lower your blood pressure.

Keeping blood pressure healthy

“There are lots of different ways you can have a significant impact on your blood pressure,” says Dr Mike Mead, a GP in Leicester. "Reducing your blood pressure can make a massive difference to your health. It can prevent you from having a stroke or heart attack. There are so many benefits to making sure your blood pressure stays at a reasonable level."

The following steps towards a healthier lifestyle will help lower your blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level.

Exercise

Do at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, such as walking, dancing, cycling, or swimming. If you're not used to exercising, don't start too quickly. Talk to your doctor about how much exercise will suit you, and build up slowly. Find out more about how to start:

You can find out more about health and fitness, including 10-minute home workouts.  

Healthy eating

A healthy, balanced diet will help reduce your blood pressure. A healthy diet includes eating:

Aim to eat no more than 6g of salt a day. Don't add salt to food. Read food labels when you're shopping to help you buy healthier foods. Many foods, including breakfast cereals, bread, and soup contain added salt.

Saturated fat is found in butter, ghee, lard, meat pies, fatty meat, sausages, cakes, biscuits, and food containing coconut oil or palm oil.

"Many people know to avoid butter because it's high in saturated fat, but if you have three biscuits with your morning coffee, you're still getting saturated fat," says Dr Mead.

Fruit and vegetables are good for health, whether they're fresh, tinned, frozen, dried or in juice.

Lose weight

Exercising and eating healthily will help you lose weight. Obesity increases your risk of high blood pressure, so it's important to be a healthy weight.

To find out if you're a healthy weight and to get advice on losing weight, use the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Get more tips on losing weight, and have a look at the 12-week weight loss guide.  

Limit your alcohol intake

The recommended healthy limits for alcohol are:

  • no more than three to four units a day for men
  • no more than two to three units a day for women

One unit of alcohol is roughly half a pint of regular-strength lager or a 125ml glass of wine.

Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits puts you at risk of a number of health problems, including high blood pressure. Find out more about the risks of alcohol and how you can cut down.

You can check how much you're drinking by using the alcohol tracker. You can also use the Drinkaware unit calculator to find out how many units there are in different measures and brands of alcoholic drinks.

Find out about the calories in alcohol.

Smoking

Although smoking doesn't cause high blood pressure, it raises the risk of heart disease. Stopping smoking reduces this risk, and is especially important if you have high blood pressure.

Get information and tips to help you stop smoking.  

Medication

Some people with high blood pressure need to take medication to lower it, as well as making the healthy lifestyle changes above. Find out more about:

Hypertension

High blood pressure has no symptoms, but if it's not treated it can damage the kidneys, heart and brain.

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2013

Next review due: 28/02/2015

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

jporter86 said on 11 August 2014

I'm surprised stress isn't listed as a cause here. I never had any problems with my blood pressure until this year and oddly enough it was after I started to do all of the things listed above to improve my general health. I drastically reduced my alcohol intake, started running 5k three times a week, started eating clean (really upping the amount of fruit and veg, and getting rid of processed garbage altogether) and in the end I lost 5kg.

After all that I went to the doctor for my annual blood pressure check up (I'm on the pill) and for the first time in my life I was told that my blood pressure was high. This makes me wonder if maybe there's a bit more to it than diet and exercise?

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alotaham said on 16 June 2012

I have the opposite problem, My blood pressure is usually a bit low, even when it's high for me it's low compared to others, It's not usually more than 105/60 but can be as low as 87/48 I've got to be careful when I stand up, or if I bend down as I can become very dizzy. I also have moderate heart failure so find it difficult to stand on public transport, or in queues without getting dizzy, I try to keep it at bay by working out at the gym staying as fit as I can ad keeping my weight down, The heart failure is treated with ACE inhibitors which also can lead to low BP.

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Polo2005 said on 17 February 2012

I am very surprised that the NHS does not detail perhaps the main cause of High Blood Pressure, sugar consumption.
As a substance that we have not evolved to consume a large amount of, especially in a refined form, it unbalances many different chemicals in your body, causing amongst other things, high blood pressure. (People with diabetes normally have high blood pressure.) There is nothing wrong with reasonable fat consumption in your diet as long as you avoid the modern excesses of sugar and salt. (Fat is consumed all of the time in the natural world.)
Even more important than exercise in reducing blood pressure, it is processed carbohydrates - sugar that needs to be cut out of diets. AVOID SUGAR

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