Is your blood pressure too high?

It's thought 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

High blood pressure is often referred to as a "silent killer" – the only way to know if you have it is to have your blood pressure checked. Health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and GPs can check your blood pressure with a simple test. 

If this check shows raised blood pressure, you may be given a blood pressure kit to take home so you can monitor your blood pressure throughout the day. This will confirm whether you have consistently high blood pressure.

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 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

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • 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  

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

Regularly drinking more than the 14 units a week limit 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 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 outlined above.

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Page last reviewed: 19/02/2015

Next review due: 19/02/2017

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