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.
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.
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 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Limit your alcohol intake
Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.
Staying within the 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 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.
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.
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.
Cut down on caffeine
Drinking more than 4 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.
Smoking does not 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.
Page last reviewed: 23 October 2019
Next review due: 23 October 2022