Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood away from the heart to the rest of your body in vessels called arteries. Therefore, it’s the force of your blood on the walls of your arteries as it is pumped through the body.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg and has two numbers. The first number, or ‘systolic’ measurement, is taken as your heart pumps and the second number, or ‘diastolic’ measurement, as your heart relaxes. The first figure is the systolic measurement and the second figure is the diastolic measurement, so it’s systolic over diastolic - e.g. 124/80. Blood pressure is variable and naturally goes up and down during the day. This is normal and is quite different from being diagnosed with ‘high’ blood pressure.
What is a healthy blood pressure?
A blood pressure of 120 over 80 mmHg or below is known as optimal or healthy, blood pressure. Above 140/90 mmHg is high and anything in between the two is elevated. Although a very low blood pressure is not good either, generally lower blood pressure is better for you than high blood pressure.
How can I manage high blood pressure?
Blood pressure depends on many factors, including your age and family history, but simple changes to your diet and lifestyle may help to manage blood pressure and bring it down to a healthier level. If you are concerned about your blood pressure, you should always talk to your doctor first
Simple changes that help manage blood pressure
- Reduce the amount of salt in your diet
Too much salt in your diet can have a direct effect on your blood pressure, but you can help reduce how much salt you eat by:
- avoiding salty snacks like cheese, crisps and salted nuts
- limiting the salt you add to cooking
- using low-sodium salt in cooking
- Have a laugh
We all like to have a laugh, so you will be pleased to hear that laughter helps you relax, which positively impacts on your blood pressure.
- Harness the power of potassium
Potassium, a mineral found in fruit, vegetables, dairy and fish, helps the body to get rid of excess salt. Your body cannot store potassium so it’s a good idea to store it every day.
- Enjoy regular exercise
Regular healthy exercise can have a great influence on your blood pressure. It’s a good idea to exercise with a partner, as this helps keep you motivated and makes exercise more enjoyable.
- Manage your weight
If you are overweight, you are 2 - 6 times more likely to develop elevated blood pressure than if you are a healthy weight, so manage your weight with a sensible eating and exercise plan.
- Moderate your drinking
If you drink, do it in moderation – no more than two standard drinks a day if you’re a man under 65, or one drink a day if you’re a woman or over 65and include some alcohol free days
- Go bananas for fruit and veg
Five servings of fruit and vegetables a day can help you maintain your blood pressure, as they are a great natural source of potassium. Eating a range of fruits and veggies will ensure you’re getting enough.
- Know your numbers
Knowing your blood pressure levels is the first step to controlling them. If you don’t know your blood pressure, get checked out by your GP. If your numbers are ‘120 over 80’ or lower that’s great – you have a healthy blood pressure. If they are higher, start taking control today.
- Ask a loved one to help you resist temptation
Managing your blood pressure is a big job. At times you may feel pressure to succumb to temptation. Don’t be nervous to ask for help from those around you to keep yourself on the straight and narr
- Know your family history
Knowing your family’s medical history can be useful for identifying potential risks. Elevated blood pressure can be hereditary, so find out whether it runs in your family.
- Take time to unwind
Stress and anxiety can raise your blood pressure, so it’s important to think about coping mechanisms, like regular exercise, regular healthy sleep and breathing exercises.
- Make yourself a promise
Changing diet and lifestyle isn’t easy for any of us, and it can be easy to lose focus of your long-term goals. Why not bring your goals to life by making a promise to yourself? Write down your long-term goal and a series of short-term goals. Before you know it, you will be able to look back and say ‘I did it!’