High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common health conditions in the UK. It affects an estimated 15 million people, but it’s believed around 5.5 million of those are undiagnosed 1.
There are a number of things you can do to keep an eye on your blood pressure – and help keep it down.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of how strongly your blood presses against your arteries as it moves around your body. It’s given in two figures:
Systolic – when your heart pushes blood out
Diastolic – when you’re heart rests between beats
Normal blood pressure is considered to be below 120/80. High blood pressure, which puts a strain on organs and arteries, is 140/90 or above. Anywhere in between means you might be in danger of developing high blood pressure.
What causes high blood pressure?
There are a number of factors that increase your risk, such as:
● Being overweight
● Drinking too much alcohol
● Lack of exercise
● An unhealthy diet, with too much salt
● Long-term sleep deprivation
What are the signs of high blood pressure?
Contrary to some claims you might read online, high blood pressure doesn’t have any obvious signs you should be looking out for. The only way to find out your blood pressure is to take a test.
How do you measure blood pressure?
You can have your blood pressure checked at your local GP surgery, at some pharmacies, or at home using a clinically validated blood pressure monitor.
When having the test, it’s recommended you try to relax and not talk. Being anxious can raise your blood pressure.
With our health insurance, if you do have concerns about your heart you’re usually covered for any necessary diagnostic tests, including scans and electrocardiograms.
How can you lower your blood pressure?
Good lifestyle choices can help to lower your blood pressure, or keep it down.
● Exercise: being active helps keep your heart and arteries healthy. Try to build it into your normal day
● Weight: being in the right weight range means your heart doesn’t have to work so hard
● Alcohol: alcohol has a direct effect on raising your blood pressure. Men and women should stay under 14 units a week
● Caffeine: if you regularly drink more than four cups of coffee a day you should cut back
● Diet: read more about how to eat a healthy diet
What foods can lower your blood pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, some changes to your diet can help:
● Eat more oily fish, which is high in omega-3 and thought to lower blood pressure
● Cut down on saturated fats (to below 30g for a man and 20g for a woman)
● Cut down on salt, which is a major factor in high blood pressure. More than 75% of the salt we consume comes from prepared foods, so check the labels and remember that anything more than 1.5g of salt per 100g of food is high
How do you treat high blood pressure?
Anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure may first be asked to make some of the lifestyle changes we’ve listed.
But many will eventually need medication. There is a wide variety available and doctors will choose the right course to suit individual cases.
If you do need treatment, you can call us to arrange specialist care and understand what’s covered by your insurance policy.