According to the NHS, around one third of adults in the UK suffer from high blood pressure but many do not realise it as it rarely displays any noticeable symptoms. However, if left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In this blog, we cover five easy ways to lower your blood pressure naturally through diet and lifestyle.
Blood pressure is measured by a two-digit figure reading given on a blood pressure monitor. It’s a measurement of the force of the blood being pumped around the body. Everyone’s reading will be slightly different, and the only way to find out your blood pressure is to have it checked either by your GP or your Pharmacist. Once you obtain your blood pressure reading, you can enter it on the NHS website here to find out what it means.
High blood pressure can be caused by the result of an underlying health condition or certain medications. For example, conditions such as diabetes, long-term kidney infections, over and under active thyroid conditions to name a few can cause high blood pressure.
The risk of developing high blood pressure is increased by certain lifestyle factors including:
The reason for reducing salt in your diet is because generally salt raises your blood pressure. In most cases, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. However, if you exercise on a regular basis your daily salt intake may differ.
This happens because salt holds onto water which then increases the pressure inside the blood vessels from the extra water in your blood.
The NHS recommends adults eat no more than 6g salt per day, which is around 1 teaspoon. At times it can be difficult to know exactly how much salt you’re consuming because it’s often already found in the day-to-day food we consume such as biscuits, sauces, ready meals and takeaways.
Here’s some simple ways you can reduce your salt intake from your diet:
Cutting down on salt intake can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to lower your blood pressure. Many people will see a difference in their blood pressure after a few weeks of reducing salt intake.
Coffee and tea can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, although it’s important these drinks are not your main source of fluid intake. Caffeine can also be found in energy drinks and cola as well as chocolate and green tea albeit in small amounts.
Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day may increase your blood pressure and you may wish to consider cutting down if you are at risk or already have high blood pressure.
Being more active helps lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy and a lack of physical exercise is linked to high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s likely your doctor or nurse will encourage you to be more active to help lower it. It’s never too late to start and most people are safe to exercise even if they already have high blood pressure, but you may wish to speak to your doctor before you start exercising. Exercise also has other benefits to your muscles, joints and bones as well as your mood and brain health.
Here is a list of exercises that are good to do for your blood pressure:
You can also be more active in your day-to-day life by walking more each day, getting outside every day or do chair or mat based exercises such as yoga.
Note, some exercises such as sprinting, weightlifting or extreme sports like skydiving can increase your blood pressure too quickly and cause more strain on your heart and are not recommended if your blood pressure is not under control. If you suffer from high blood pressure before participating in these types of activities speak to your GP first.
Fruit and vegetables are part of a healthy diet because they contain lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre that keep your body healthy. Fruit and vegetables particularly help lower blood pressure because they contain the mineral potassium which directly counters the effect of salt which contains sodium that raises blood pressure.
It's important to get a variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet to cover all the vitamins and minerals your body needs, and they all count towards your 5-a-day whether they’re fresh, dried, frozen or canned.
A diet containing plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Fibre can be found in wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, oats, beans, pulses and fruit and vegetables. In a previous blog we discussed more ways to increase fibre into your diet to make sure to include these in your diet every day.
See the NHS Eatwell Guide for more details on a well-balanced healthy diet.
When feeling stressed, our bodies release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into our blood, increasing our heart rate and raising our blood pressure. This effect is temporary, and our heart rate and blood pressure return to normal once the stressful situation is over. However, feeling stressed over a long period of time can lead to serious illness such as heart disease so it’s important to learn how to manage it.
Feeling stressed can affect your mood and quality of sleep but also your behaviour choices of coping, for example, smoking, drinking more alcohol than usual, or leading to poor eating habits.
If you feel your stress is affecting your happiness and wellbeing, try finding new ways to relax, talk to someone and do some exercise. For more ideas, visit the NHS Every Mind Matters and Mental Health help for more information. You can also speak to your GP or one of our pharmacists for further advice.
These recommended dietary and lifestyle suggestions can be effective in helping to lower blood pressure and should be considered alongside any advice from your GP. Note that some health conditions and medications can also increase your blood pressure and it’s advised to speak to a health professional if you are concerned.
For more information, visit the NHS website and Blood Pressure UK website.
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