Word on Health

Word On High Blood Pressure

Our thanks to the Blood Pressure UK (BPUK) for their contribution to this weeks report and for the reproduction of some of the text below. To find out more click here to visit their website.

  • 1 in 3 adults in the UK (16 million) has high blood pressure
  • An estimated 8 million people don't know they have high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure causes the arteries to fur up (atherosclerosis) and puts extra strain on the blood vessels.
  • High blood pressure is the biggest known cause of premature death and disability in the UK due to the strokes, heart attacks and heart disease it causes. It is also a risk factor for kidney disease and dementia
  • People with high blood pressure are 3 times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from these as people with a normal blood pressure
  • On average, every 4 minutes an adult in the UK has a heart attack or stroke in which high blood pressure is a key factor.

High-risk groups include the over 55's, people of African Caribbean descent, and people of South Asian origin who are more prone to other vascular conditions. 

It's wrong to think of high blood pressure as being an older person's health problem- up to 7% of the 16-24 year age group will have it and many are unaware - we should all know what are blood pressure is and have it checked regularly. Click here to visit the Blood Pressure UK website to find out more about blood pressure readings. 

Common causes and risk factors of high blood pressure include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Eating high amounts of salt
  • Lack of potassium in the diet
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumors in the adrenal gland
  • Using illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine
  • Using certain medications, such as birth control pills, antidepressants, and corticosteroids

Is using a home blood pressure monitor right for you? BPUK tell us, measuring your blood pressure with a home blood pressure monitor can be very useful, but it’s not for everyone. Some people become more anxious when they start measuring at home and end up taking readings too often, this can even temporarily raise your blood pressure.

In their 2016 survey of home monitoring, nine out of 10 (87%) said home monitoring is helpful, reassuring or empowering, while 13% found it caused anxiety. Before you decide to try monitoring your blood pressure at home, ask yourself: will using a home blood pressure monitor make me feel more relaxed or more worried? 

As we heard before you buy a blolod pressure monitoring machine you must check that its validated. Check out the BPUK wesbite for more on this.

Reducing your risk. 

Watch your weight  Being overweight is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, all of which increase your risk of stroke. A healthy diet and regular exercise (30minutes brisk walking 5 times a week) will help control your weight.

Hydration. Make sure you're drinking enough water every day - 6 to 8 glasses.  

Healthy eating is essential for a healthy heart & bloodstream.  You should aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. A portion is about 80 grams (3 ounces) - for example, an apple, an orange or a glass of orange juice, a large carrot, two broccoli florets, a handful of grapes or three tablespoons of peas.

Reduce your salt intake  Salt raises blood pressure. Don't add salt to your food and avoid processed foods/fast foods which contain a lot of salt. There are steps you can take to enhance flavour yet reduce the salt you use in cooking the Blood Pressure UK site has details  

Don't fill up or snack on junk food. Instead, eat as much fresh fruit, vegetables, and dried fruit as you like. If you can always cook fresh food.

Eat more fibre Foods high in fibre help control blood fat levels. Try whole-grain cereals, porridge, brown rice, wholewheat bread and pasta, and grains such as couscous.

Limit the amount of fat you eat You need some fat in your diet, but too much can clog up your arteries and add to weight problems. Try to limit the amount you use and stick to vegetable, seed and nut oils rather than margarine and butter.

Choose low-fat proteins. Don't eat too much red meat - choose fish, poultry (with the skin removed), game or vegetarian alternatives instead. Most red meat is high in saturated fat which contributes to the arteries furring up.

Alcohol  Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. Binge drinking (drinking more than six units in six hours) is particularly dangerous as it can cause blood pressure to soar. If you limit your alcohol to within the current guidelines there's nothing wrong with the occasional drink - in moderation, it may even do you good!

  • Women should drink no more than two to three units of alcohol a day. (Women who are pregnant should not drink at all.)
  • Men should drink no more than three to four units a day.
  • Don't drink every day. Try to have a few alcohol-free days a week.

A unit of alcohol is a small glass of wine, a single pub measure of spirits or half a pint of weak beer or lager.

Tackle stress & depression  Many things in life - like overwork, redundancy, family problems and bereavement - can lead to stress and depression. These take a physical toll on the body, and if they are not treated they can contribute to long-term health problems. It's important that you get any help you need from your doctor or other health professional.

Keep taking the medication. If you are prescribed medication for high blood pressure its important to keep taking the the medicatiomn as prescribed - any issues with the medication talk to your doctor. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.