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Blood pressure (high) - Preventing high blood pressure

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Having high blood pressure can be prevented by eating heathily, maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.

Diet

Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful. Find out more about how to cut down on salt.

Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre (for example, wholegrain rice, bread and pasta) and plenty of fruit and vegetables has been proven to help lower blood pressure. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre that keep your body in good condition. Aim to eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Find out more about getting your 5 A DAY.

Alcohol

Regularly drinking alcohol above what the NHS recommends will raise your blood pressure over time. Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

The NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than three-to-four units a day.
  • Women should not regularly drink more than two-to-three units a day.

Find out how many units are in your favourite tipple, track your drinking over time and get tips on cutting down.

Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight. This will also increase your blood pressure. Find out how many calories are in popular drinks.

Caffeine

Drinking more than four cups of coffee a day may increase your blood pressure. If you are a big fan of coffee, tea or other caffeine-rich drinks (such as cola and some energy drinks), consider cutting down. It is fine to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet but it is important that these drinks are not your only source of fluid. Find out if you are drinking enough fluids.

Weight

Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure. Find out if you need to lose weight with the BMI healthy weight calculator.

If you do need to shed some weight, it is worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health. Get tips on losing weight safely.

Exercise

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 (i.e. cycling or fast walking) every week. For it to count, the activity should make you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Someone who is overweight may only have to walk up a slope to get this feeling. Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening. Get more ideas on being active.

Relaxation therapies

Relaxation therapy and exercise can reduce blood pressure. These therapies include:

  • stress management, meditation or yoga
  • cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which focuses on how thoughts and beliefs can affect the way you feel and how you cope with problems. CBT is increasingly available on the NHS so check with your GP about accessing this type of therapy.
  • biofeedback, where a small monitor constantly shows you your heartbeat or blood pressure, and is used to help you try to control your blood pressure. Referrals for biofeedback can be made through a GP.

These treatments are not normally provided by the NHS, although you may want to find out more about them first. 

Smoking

Smoking doesn't 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 a heart or lung disease in the future is dramatically increased. Get help to stop smoking.

Find out how your blood pressure is tested.

Medical Review: April 21, 2012
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