Your heart is a muscular pump – it pumps blood around your body using a system of blood vessels. BP is created by the force of your heart pumping blood out and the resistance of the vessel walls through which the blood passes.
BP is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is usually written down like this: 120/70 mmHg. There are two numbers, because BP varies as the heart beats. The high number is the peak pressure created as the heart beats. The lower number is the residual pressure within the vessels as the heart rests between each beat.
High BP is a reading greater than 140/90 mmHg. High BP is also known as hypertension.
Ideally, we should all have a BP below 120/80. This is the ideal BP for people wishing to have good health. At this level, we have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
Most adults in the UK have BP readings between 120/80 to 140/90. If your BP is within this range, you should be taking steps to bring it down or to stop it rising any further.
Living a healthy lifestyle plays a pivotal role and can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range, which in turn reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many lifestyles changes you can make which can help prevent and lower higher blood pressure. Below provides some key insights to simple changes which can be kick started today:
Eating for health
Aim to eat for your health, consume foods like vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, and ones that are rich in potassium, calcium, fibre, foods which are low in saturated fat and reduce your salt intake. Think about eating a rainbow every day and food as a whole package rather than a single micronutrient.
Moving for health
Being active helps lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good shape. Physical activity boosts heart health by helping the heart pump more blood with less effort. Simultaneously, exercise signals cells in our blood vessels to produce nitric oxide, which plays a key role in keeping arteries stretchy and smooth, helping prevent blood clots.
Exercise also contributes to helping maintain a healthy bodyweight, lowering our risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, both of which are key hypertensive risk factors.
When we sleep (7-9 hours per night), our blood pressure naturally drops. So, when we don’t sleep sufficiently, our blood pressure can stay consistently elevated, putting us at higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Although there are many negative outcomes, poor sleep can also contribute to weight gain and increased stress levels, both of which can drive our blood pressure up.
Feeling stressed can raise your blood pressure for a short time but this is completely normal. However, unhealthy habits normally can form when we are stressed, which can eventually lead to high blood pressure long term. Establish your personal stress coping mechanisms, restore the body through optimal sleep and aim to eat and move for health every day.
Regularly drinking alcohol above the low-risk guidelines can put you at risk of high blood pressure. When looking to reduce your alcohol intake always make sure you plan and establish ways you are going to stay on track and keep motivated. Set specific goals, celebrate successes, notice the change in how you feel and always reach out for extra support if needed.