Around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it, according to the NHS. The health body says that it is not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk. Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure such as having a generally healthy diet and stopping smoking.
Omron healthcare notes that processed foods are the “main offenders”.
It adds: “We all know that sugar causes obesity, but it’s also implicated in high blood pressure. It disrupts your metabolism, for example by causing your body to produce too much insulin and leptin, reducing sodium and water excretion by the kidneys and causing your blood vessels to constrict.”
It notes that some food and drinks may seem healthy, but you may actually need to cut them out of your diet.
For example, fruit juice might seem like a healthy choice, “but may contain as much sugar as a non-diet soft drink”.
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It adds: “Sports drinks, too, tend to be associated with a healthy lifestyle, but may be packed with sugar to give you instant energy.”
Similarly, protein bars “may contain as much sugar as a candy bar” according to the site.
The NHS suggests that to lower high blood pressure you should cut back on alcohol, lose weight if you’re overweight, exercise regularly, cut down on caffeine and stop smoking.
“If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend taking one or more medicines to keep it under control,” it adds.
Although it may not always be caused by something underlying, in about one in 20 cases high blood pressure happens as the result of an underlying health condition or taking a certain medicine.
Healthy adults aged over 40 should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years, though the health body says if you’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure, you should have your blood pressure checked more often.
“Having a raised blood pressure reading in one test does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure.
“Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day. Feeling anxious or stressed when you visit your GP can also raise your blood pressure,” it adds.
Nonetheless, as a general guide high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80).
Moreover, ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure is the higher number and is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure, the lower number, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Both are also measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
The Mayo Clinic says: “A blood pressure measurement higher than 180/120 mm Hg is an emergency situation that requires urgent medical care.”
High blood pressure rarely has symptoms, but it’s a risk factor for heart disease, so you should test it if you are concerned.
The health site explains: “It’s never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and getting more exercise. These are the main ways to protect yourself against high blood pressure and its complications.”