What is blood pressure?
The term ‘blood pressure’ is often used by the media to explain national rises in heart attacks and kidney failure without any real explanation. In fact, the words crop up so often that they begin to lose any sense of meaning. So what is blood pressure and why is maintaining a healthy level so important?
The term simply refers to the pressure of blood as it flows through the body’s arteries. When blood has to force its way through these vessels with greater exertion, the body’s blood pressure is raised.
Pressure is measured by two numbers, e.g. 120/80. The first number measures ‘systolic’ pressure, i.e. how effective your heart is at pumping blood around the arteries. Meanwhile the second number refers to ‘diastolic’ pressure, measuring how efficiently your heart relaxes between beats. A blood pressure level of 140/90 or more can signal potential health problems. When blood struggles to get round the arteries fast enough, the dangers of illness heighten significantly.
Lowering the risks of high blood pressure
So, what can be done about reducing high blood pressure? Soaring levels are often caused by fatty deposits in the arteries. A change in lifestyle and diet is therefore essential in combating the chances of suffering heart failure or kidney problems.
Cutting down on alcohol — That post-work beer may seem like a good form of stress relief after a long day at the office. Sadly, whilst drinking in moderation will not do your body too much harm, a regular intake of booze could seriously heighten your blood pressure and lead to some nasty side-effects. Try and avoid binge drinking, and don’t overdo it on your social tipples. Sometimes less really is more ...
Reducing salt intake — Dousing your dishes in mounds of salt may tingle those all-important taste-buds. However, salty meals or snacks could also do some serious damage to your blood pressure, causing fatty deposits to form in the arteries. Chips and popcorn may all appease your hungry stomach but your heart certainly won’t appreciate the extra strain. Reduce the salt in your diet and you could go a long way in rescuing your health from the perils of sky-high blood pressure.
Get some quality exercise — Of course, the best way to burn off fatty flab is to get some regular exercise. Whether joining up to a gym or starting out in a new sport, a frequent exercise routine should succeed in working out your body, cutting down the calories whilst offering a range of other health benefits such as improved flexibility, greater stamina and stronger muscles. So spend less of your energy on coming up with elaborate excuses and more time doing some fun yet healthy fitness training.
Increasing potassium intake — Potassium helps balance the water in your body, as well as controlling acidity and muscular growth. As a result, a diet high in potassium-rich foods could offer some real health boons, better regulating blood flow through the arteries to feed muscles with oxygen more efficiently. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, and tuna.
Stop smoking — Okay, so we’re not going to win any awards for groundbreaking advice here, but banishing the cigarettes from your lifestyle could really do your blood pressure some big favors. Smoking has long been linked to rising blood pressure, with tar and toxic fumes damaging the integrity of blood cells and vessels. So do your best to quit those costly fags and you might start breathing a whole lot easier.
Eating more fruit and veg — A simple one this ... Increasing the volume of fruit and vegetables in your diet could really cut your blood pressure, as well as boosting your general health with an influx of nutrients. Eating green vegetables will flood your body with essential minerals and vitamins, so try and enjoy a range of fruit and veg, covering everything from citrus fruits through to cabbage if possible!
Finding out your blood pressure
Many people remain unaware of the possible dangers posed by high blood pressure, potentially putting themselves at risk of unexpected heart and kidney troubles. As a result, it’s vital you find out your current blood pressure level so you can take decisive action when and where it’s appropriate.
The best way to measure your blood pressure is to make an appointment with your GP. However, the UK’s Blood Pressure Association (BPA) is also a valuable source of information, with further help and advice for people seeking to ease their pressure and live a less stressful life.