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Hypertension/high blood pressure health centre

High blood pressure - Keeping your blood pressure healthy

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A healthy lifestyle can lower your blood pressure if it's raised, and can help keep it at a healthy level.

"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, and can lower your chance of ending up in an old people's home with a lack of memory, which can be caused by small mini-strokes.

"There are so many benefits to making sure your blood pressure stays at a reasonable level."

If you have chronic kidney disease, controlling your blood pressure can slow its progression.

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

Exercise

Do 30 minutes of activity five times a week, such as walking, dancing, cycling or swimming. If you're not used to exercise, don't start too suddenly. Talk to your doctor about the level of exercise that will suit you, and build up slowly. Find out more about fitness.

Healthy eating

A healthy, balanced diet will help reduce your blood pressure. This includes:
  • eating less salt
  • eating less saturated fat
  • eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Aim for 6g or less of salt a day. Don't add salt to food. And read food labels when you're shopping because many foods, including breakfast cereals 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 saturated fat, but if you have three biscuits with your morning coffee, you're still getting saturated fat," says Dr Mike.

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

Find out more about healthy eating.

Use the 5-A-DAY shopping planner to help get your five portions of fruit and veg. 

Lose weight

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

You can find out if you're a healthy weight, and get tailored advice, with the healthy weight calculator.

Find out tips for losing weight.

Limit your alcohol intake

The recommended healthy limits for alcohol are no more than 3-4 units a day for men, and no more than 2-3 units a day for women. Regularly drinking more than this puts you at risk of a number of health problems, including high blood pressure. Find out more about the risks of drinking and how you can cut down.

One unit of alcohol is roughly half a pint of regular strength lager or one 125ml glass of wine. You can check how much you're drinking with the unit calculator.  

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 hypertension.

For help quitting, go to the Smokefree website.

Medication

Some people with hypertension need to take medication to lower their blood pressure, as well as adopting the healthy lifestyle changes above. Find out more about treatment for hypertension.
Medical Review: June 20, 2010

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