‘’Know your Numbers Week’ is the nation’s largest annual blood pressure testing and awareness event. Every September, volunteers give free blood pressure checks to thousands of passers-by to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Since its launch in 2001, 1.5 million people have had a free blood pressure check during the annual ‘Know Your Numbers Week’. Unfortunately, this year due to COVID-19 the free blood pressure checks can’t be done, which means it’s more important than ever that you know your numbers when it comes to your blood pressure!
So why is it important to monitor your blood pressure?
High blood pressure is often related to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and not exercising enough. Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing a number of serious long-term health conditions, such as coronary heart disease and kidney disease.
6 million people in the UK have high blood pressure and don’t know it. Every day in the UK, 350 people have a stroke or heart attack that could have been prevented. Here are just some of the reasons why everyone should ‘Know Their Numbers’:
- 1 in 2 strokes and heart attacks are the result of high blood pressure.
- 1 in 3 adults in the UK have high blood pressure.
- 1 in 2 adults with high blood pressure don’t know they have it or aren’t receiving treatment.
- 6 million people in the UK alone have high blood pressure and don’t know it.
- £2.1 billion – that’s how much high blood pressure costs the NHS every year.
Because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, the first sign of it could be a heart attack or stroke. It can cause kidney disease, dementia and other illnesses too. But these tragedies can be prevented with the right medication and lifestyle changes.
Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher and low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower.
How to maintain a healthy blood pressure:
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.
Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down:
Maintain a healthy weight
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can also cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg – ideally you should aim to exercise for 30 minutes per day. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. This can easily be incorporated into your normal everyday life, for example getting out for a walk on your break at work or going for jog.
Improve your diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
- Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
- Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements.
- Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out too.
Reduce salt in your diet
To decrease your salt intake, consider these tips:
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
- Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food.
- Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who don’t.
Cut back on caffeine
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.
Although the long-term effects of caffeine on blood pressure aren’t clear, it’s possible blood pressure may slightly increase.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
Reduce your stress
Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
Monitor your blood pressure at home
Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it.
Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctors or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.
If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.
We believe every adult in the UK should know their blood pressure numbers in the same way they know their height and weight. When you ‘Know Your Numbers’ you can take steps to look after your blood pressure and lead a long and healthy life. You can visit Blood Pressure UK’s online measuring your blood at home resources hub now to download their range of home blood pressure monitoring resources!
At Pall Mall Medical, we are dedicated to improving your health and wellbeing. No matter how old you are, you may be feeling unwell, interested to see what your state of health is, or want to know if you’re at risk from certain health issues due to your lifestyle or family history.
If you know you have a family history of e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cancer, or if your body is showing the strains of a hectic lifestyle or excessive work schedule – a private health screen is a proactive step to help alleviate your health worries or uncover any potential issues.
This month if you book a woman’s health screen you will receive a free Ovarian Cancer Test (CA125) and if we book a men’s health screen you will get a free Prostate Disease Test.
To claim your free PSA (Ovarian Cancer) or CA125 (Prostate Cancer) test when booking a £210 men’s or women’s health screen with us, please call 03300 584 455 and quote FREEPSA upon booking.
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