Have you just been told by your doctor that your blood pressure’s a bit too high? Don’t stress (really, that could make it go even higher!) because there is plenty you can do about it.
What does high blood pressure mean?
It means that it’s harder for your heart to pump blood around your body. In conjunction with high blood cholesterol (and the subsequent formation of fatty plaques inside your arteries) it could lead to blockages, heart attacks and strokes. But there are many risk factors and the tips below also cover some of these (such as being overweight, smoking, drinking to excess, having a poor diet high in salt and low in veg, having high cholesterol and being physically inactive).
- Quit smoking- we all know it’s bad for us in just about every way possible (and is a risk factor for just about every disease). But I know it’s hard, so if you need help, chat to your GP or contact Quitline.
- Cut back on the alcohol- aim for no more than 2 standard drinks per day and at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.
- Stop stressing- identify the stressors in your life and find a relaxation technique that helps to combat them.
- Increase the vegetable and fruit portion of your shop and cut back on the processed foods- the extra potassium will help counter the sodium in your diet (not to mention all the benefits of all the other nutrients!).
- Swap refined, white and processed carbohydrates for wholegrains- such as grainy breads, oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa and bran-based cereals.
- Get a healthy dose of heart-loving fats- from oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
- Make takeaway a treat food- most takeaway foods are laden with salt and fat (usually far more than you would add if cooking it yourself). So embrace the homemade version!
- Get familiar with food labels- salt is used as both a flavouring agent and a preservative so you’ll find it in many staple foods (including breads and cereals). Aim for <400mg sodium/100g and opt for reduced, or no-added, salt sauces, stocks and tinned products where possible.
- Make water your main drink- cut back on soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice (the whole fruit is so much better!). Add lemon and mint to flavour it, make it ice-cold with ice cubes, or rediscover tea.
- Start moving- exercise doesn’t have to equate to hours slogging it out in the gym. It can be in short bursts and something you enjoy. Just try to get your heart rate up (and remember that every bit of incidental activity counts).