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Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common problem as we all get older. We know that a higher blood pressure is associated with increased chance of cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart attacks. It is therefore important to pick up patients with a high blood pressure and treat it adequately.
In order to diagnose blood pressure, it is sometimes necessary to send you away with a blood pressure machine and ask you to check your readings over 2 weeks. We have produced a form for you to record your blood pressure which can be downloaded here.
Sometimes in order to find out more about your blood pressure we may ask you to wear a blood pressure monitor over one to two days. Marie in our nursing team arranges this with patients if the Doctors ask for this. This is called Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring or AMBP
What do the numbers mean?
There are 2 parts to the blood pressure:
The top (first) number is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. - The bottom (second) number is the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each heartbeat.
What are normal and high blood pressure values?
Normal blood pressure is less than 140/90 mmHg. (However, if you have diabetes you should aim to have a level less than 140/80 mmHg.)
Mildly high blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above, but below 160/100 mmHg. Treatment with tablets may be advised if it remains at this level, depending on whether you have other 'risk factors'.
Definitely high blood pressure is 160/100 mmHg or above. Treatment with tablets is usually advised if your blood pressure remains at this level.
What can I do to lower blood pressure?
Lose weight if you are overweight
Losing some weight can make a big difference. On average, blood pressure falls by about 2.5/1.5 mmHg for each excess kilogram which is lost. Losing weight has other health benefits apart from lowering blood pressure.
You should aim to do some exercise on 5 or more days of the week, for at least 30 minutes. For example, brisk walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, gardening, etc. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure in addition to giving other health benefits.
Eat a healthy diet, which means
- AT LEAST five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day.
- THE BULK OF MOST MEALS should be starch-based foods (such as cereals, wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice, pasta), plus fruit and vegetables.
- NOT MUCH fatty food such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-cream milk, fried food, butter, etc. Use low fat, mono-, or poly-unsaturated spreads.
- INCLUDE 2-3 portions of fish per week. At least one of which should be 'oily' (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, salmon, or fresh tuna).
- If you eat meat it is best to eat lean meat, or poultry such as chicken.
- If you do fry, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil.
- Try not to add salt to food, and avoid foods which are salty. o Use herbs and spices to flavour food rather than salt.
- Choose foods labelled 'no added salt' and try not add salt to food at the table.
- Use fresh fish and meat rather than canned or processed.
A healthy diet provides health benefits in different ways. For example, it can lower cholesterol, help control your weight, and has plenty of vitamins, fibre, and other nutrients which help to prevent certain diseases. Some aspects of a healthy diet also directly affect blood pressure.
- Increasing the number of portions of fruit and vegetables from 2 to 7 per day will, on average, reduce blood pressure by 7/3 mmHg.
- If this is combined with a low-fat diet, the effect on lowering blood pressure is greater.
- If you also keep to a low-salt diet, then the blood pressure may become even lower.
A diet which is low-fat, low-salt, and high in fruit and vegetables can lower systolic blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg.