High blood pressure is a worrying condition that affects 1 in 3 adults in the U.K. It’s responsible for over half of all strokes and heart attacks but can be tackled through simple lifestyle changes. (1)
What is high blood pressure?
The heart bumps blood around the body. This is one of the most vital bodily functions. It transports oxygen to where it needs to go. As it moves around, the blood pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The force of this push is the blood pressure. When this pressure is too high, it puts an extra strain on your arteries and your heart.
High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension: hyper meaning ‘excessive’ and tension meaning ‘force’.
The dangers of having high blood pressure
High blood pressure can be dangerous if not tackled properly. Public Health England warns that high blood pressure is the second biggest risk for premature death and disability in the U.K. Complications include Stroke, Heart Attack, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease and Vascular Dementia.
These are worrying risk factors. If you’ve just been told you have high blood pressure, try not to stress. There are several ways you can reduce your blood pressure to stay as healthy as possible.
Taking medication to reduce high blood pressure
When diagnosed with high blood pressure, you will likely be prescribed with certain medications. There are several different types of medication that can help reduce high blood pressure. These include:
ACE inhibitors: Reduce your blood pressure by widening your blood vessels to help the blood flow more evenly.
Alpha Blockers: These reduce the affect of adrenaline within the bloodstream, to help your blood vessels open up properly.
ARBs: Stops your blood vessels from constricting by reducing the amount of angiotensin II (a hormone) in your blood.
Beta Blockers: These prevent adrenaline and noradrenaline from building up in the body. This in turn, helps your heart beat more slowly, thus reducing high blood pressure.
CCBs (Calcium channel blockers): These do what they say on the tin, and reduce the calcium stored in your blood vessels. This helps your blood vessels to relax to help reduce your blood pressure.
Diuretics: Salt is connected to elevated blood pressure levels. Diuretics help flush the salt out of your kidneys more efficiently.
It’s essential that you take your blood pressure medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. This will help you maintain safe blood pressure levels. If you struggle to take your medication properly, check out the PillTime method.
You should let your doctor and pharmacist know of any other medication you take. As some medication can actually increase your blood pressure.
How to reduce high blood pressure with lifestyle changes:
The most effective treatment for high blood pressure includes a combination of medication and healthier lifestyle choices.
1. Get regular exercise
Exercise is one of the best treatments for high blood pressure. Before you shut it down, exercise doesn’t mean spending your evenings in the gym. It could be anything that gets your heart pumping. Walking, in fact, is excellent exercise for your heart. Just 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise like walking can reduce your blood pressure. That’s just under 30 minutes a day.
Everyone’s time-poor these days. But, if you consider that half an hour of walking could help potentially save your life, it’s worth adding into your daily routine. Make it a habit by walking on your lunchbreak or watching your favourite evening show on your phone as you walk around the block a few times
2. Modify your diet
Less Salt: Lots of studies have connected high blood pressure and heart events with high salt intake. Unfortunately, most pre-prepared foods have hidden salts that you wouldn’t notice. So, when trying to reduce high blood pressure, try cooking more meals at home.
More potassium: Potassium is a good counteract to sodium. It helps your body get rid of excess salts and eases the pressure on blood vessels. High-potassium foods include bananas, melons, leafy greens and potatoes.
Dark chocolate: We’re not talking your high-sugar Dairy Milk here, but dark chocolate with a high cocoa %. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which encourages the blood vessels to dilate, hence relieving high blood pressure.
3. Watch your weight
Obesity is a leading cause of high blood pressure. When you carry too much weight, everything in your body is under extra strain. This means your body needs to work harder to function properly. When you reduce your body fat, you relieve the strain on your blood vessels. This helps them expand and contract with more ease.
Your doctor will be able to measure your weight and give you an ideal weight loss goal. Always consult a healthcare professional before entering into a weight loss programme. Practicing healthy eating and regular exercise is a good way to safely lose weight and reduce high blood pressure.
4. Reduce your stress levels
High blood pressure is a direct result of sustained stress on the body. Stressful situations make your heart beat faster, which makes your blood vessels constrict. This puts pressure on your blood flow.
Reduce your stress levels by finding ways to manage high-pressure situations. Good tools include walking, listening to relaxing music and getting more sleep. Practicing mindfulness every day is a long-term solution to help you react differently to stress. Learn more about mindfulness on the NHS website.
5. Stop smoking and drink less alcohol
These habits are connected to numerous health conditions, and high blood pressure is one of them. Both smoking and drinking to excess can increase your blood pressure. Lower your blood pressure by quitting smoking and restricting your alcohol intake to the recommended weekly amount. These can be tough habits to break, but the long-term health benefits are seriously worth the lifestyle change. There’s lots of NHS support to help you quit smoking and manage any difficulties with alcohol.