Busting the Myths About High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure effects 1 in 4 adults in the UK so it is something we should all be conscious of.  Hypertension is known as the silent killer as it often has little or no symptoms for those who are affected by it.

Below we dispel some of the most common myths about High Blood Pressure & share some truths about what else can impact your readings.

It is nothing to worry about – initially it is likely that you will have no noticeable symptoms of high blood pressure, so you may not be concerned.  However, having high blood pressure can lead to damage of your blood vessel, heart, and kidneys.  It can also lead to Heart disease, cause strokes and heart attacks.

It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, if you do have hypertension there are ways to manage it and bring it back to safer levels even a small change can make a big difference to your risk factors.

You Can’t Prevent Yourself from Getting it – Do some family members have high blood pressure?  Are you one of a group of people who are at a higher risk of hypertension? For these and many other reasons you may think that there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it…. Luckily, even if you have many risk factors there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk

  • Eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Keep sugar and fat to a minimum, reduce your salt intake and have plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep your weight at a healthy level
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink and avoid smoking Tobacco including keeping your exposure to second-hand smoke to a minimum
  • Keep Active – try to take 10,000 steps a day. Sounds like a challenge but simple changes like taking the stairs or walking to the shop can help you achieve your daily target.
  • Speak to your GP, if you are concerned speak with them for other suggestions on how to manager hypertension.

Salt is to blame… this is half true and false. If you eat too much white salt in fast or processed foods, your body must dilute the salt by adding more water to your blood. Moving greater volumes of blood makes the heart pump harder. The key here is to cut out ready meals and fast foods and make the change to a healthier, more balanced diet.

So, with some simple changes you can reduce your risk factors and work to lower your blood pressure.  To finish off here are two truths about what can affect your blood pressure:

Stress can make it all a lot higher -When we are stressed we automatically increase cholesterol, cortisol, glucose, and blood pressure in response to fear or threat.

White Coat Syndrome is a fact – The stress (see above) of visiting the GP, having to wait around, walking to the Doctors, and even chatting to the GP about your condition can raise your blood pressure.  If you are diagnosed, get a blood pressure monitor to use at home so you can show your GP at your check-up appointment what your readings are like when you are in a calm, relaxed environment – you may be surprised at the difference!

Love Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

 

February is the month of love but it is also National Heart Month so we thought we would share some top tips on how to show your heart some love this Valentine’s Day.

Stop Smoking – Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. If you want to kick the habit, visit your GP today and get some support and help to make sure you kick the habit.

Get Active – Getting and staying active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It can also be a great mood booster and stress buster.

It is recommended that you do 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week. An easy way to achieve this target is by doing 30 minutes of activity on five days a week. Fit it in where you can, such as by cycling to work, taking the stairs, or getting out and going for a walk during your lunch break.  Not only will this help you to be more active but it could also leave you feeling refreshed so you avoid the afternoon slump and reaching for the chocolates!

Manage your Weight – Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease. Stick to a  healthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, combined with regular physical activity.

It doesn’t have to be difficult. The trick is to keep it simple and make a few small changes at a time. There is no miracle diet – just a healthy balance of real, unprocessed food. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or complicated routine – just move more whenever you can. And look after your mental wellbeing too – avoid negative stress where possible and get adequate sleep.

Understand Your Blood Pressure – High blood pressure can affect our health by increasing our risk of stroke, heart disease and more. Yet we may be unaware that we have high blood pressure, as it may not cause us any symptoms. For that reason, the NHS recommends we get our blood pressure checked, particularly if you are overweight, smoke, have relatives with a history of high blood pressure, or if you are worried about health in other ways.

Remember even the smallest changes to your lifestyle can make a big impact on your health. If you are concerned about your health you should always contact your GP for medical advice.

Under Pressure

What is High Blood Pressure?

The top number relates to the highest pressure of your blood when being pumped though the arteries around your body and should ideally be around 120. The lower number is the pressure when your heart is resting between beats and should ideally be around 80 or even less. However, if you are hitting 140/90 or above, this is regarded as high and needs checking out by a healthcare professional. Low blood pressure of 90/60 or less can also be a problem and cause faintness – it needs checking out too. However, blood pressure can go up for several reasons. It’s not unusual for it to be temporarily raised if we have been rushing around, emotional or are feeling stressed and anxious. And for some people, there is nothing that provokes stress and anxiety as much as going to the doctor for a health check! It’s so well recognised that us medics have even given it a name – ‘white-coat hypertension’.  This can make it difficult to know whether we need our blood pressure treated, as it may be the sight of the doctor that has caused it to go up in the first place!

How Can It Affect Us?

High blood pressure can affect our health by increasing our risk of stroke, heart disease and more. Yet we may be unaware that we have high blood pressure, as it may not cause us any symptoms. For that reason, the NHS recommends we get our blood pressure checked, particularly if you are overweight, smoke, have relatives with a history of high blood pressure, or if you are worried about health in other ways.

So How Can You Manage or Even Lower Your Blood Pressure?

If your blood pressure is on the high side, or you are keen to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in the future, there are a few things you can do.

Weight control Keep your weight in the healthy range – and your waist to hip ratio < 1 (or < 0.85 for women)

Eat a healthy diet without too much salt A healthy diet is likely to help weight control, with the added benefit of being low in salt. Salt is one of the greatest influences on our blood pressure and reducing salt is one of the quickest ways to reduce blood pressure. But remember, 75% of the salt we eat is already in foods like ready meals, bread, breakfast cereal, sauces, and processed meats. So, if you have to go for a processed product, read the label carefully. Of course, making your own meals using fresh ingredients means you are much more in control of the amount of salt.

Stop smoking and cut right back on alcohol Both affect our blood pressure – and much more besides – so binning the fags and slashing the alcohol consumption will do us a lot of good.

Keep active If you are fit and get plenty of exercise, your blood pressure is likely to benefit too.  ‘Sitting is the new smoking’, we are told.  Why? Increasingly evidence is suggesting that too much sitting is bad for our health. We weren’t designed to spend long periods of every day slumped on the sofa or hunched over our desks, gazing at computer screens. Studies have shown that compared to more active people, the risk of early death is 15 per cent greater for people who sit more than eight hours a day. Long periods of inactivity can increase your risk of heart and cardiovascular disease, weight gain and type 2 diabetes, as well as some cancers. You may also become prone to headaches, visual fatigue, neck, and low back pain. So, what can you do? Researchers say the only sure way to address the problem is to sit less and change position every 20 to 30 minutes, even for 30 seconds or so. Standing and walking increases blood flow in the legs, burns more calories by speeding up your metabolism, and can help get the creative juices flowing. Changes in posture also reduce strain on our joints, spinal discs, and nerves. You don’t have to sign up for an expensive gym membership to increase your activity – just walking more has huge health benefits. However, the average Brit only takes around 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day. We need to be hitting 10,000 a day or more to benefit from walking. A pedometer is a great way to measure your steps and ensure you are reaching that target. A review of multiple studies found that people who wore pedometers, increased their step count per day by over 2000, and showed improvements in weight and blood pressure. With activity trackers now incorporating pedometers alongside calorie counters, sleep monitors and much more, we can no longer pretend we are healthier than we are!

And Finally, Get Help, if your blood pressure is high, take advice from your doctor as further treatment may be needed.

It’s All About the Big Picture

We all know we need to look after our health, but what is the best way to do it? It’s confusing.

Every time we open a magazine or switch on the TV we are given a new piece of advice. Often at odds with the advice we were given yesterday. It can get so complicated that many of us just give up and head for the sofa!

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. The trick is to keep it simple and make a few small changes at a time. There is no miracle diet – just a healthy balance of real, unprocessed food. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or complicated routine – just move more whenever you can. And look after your mental wellbeing too – avoid negative stress where possible and get adequate sleep.

As a nation, we are getting heavier and heavier, despite decades of yo-yo dieting. As our weight increases, so does our risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, breathing problems, infertility and much more.

Face the facts – are you ‘tripping the light fantastic’ or ‘packing a hefty punch’? Jumping on the scales gives us an important measure of our health – but it has its limitations.

Here are some tips on how to best monitor your weight

  • Get the big picture. Use your weight measurement alongside other indicators of fat-loss to provide a better overall picture. Waist measurement is a good one, as fat stored around the middle is more likely to be associated with health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. A waist to hip ratio of less than 1 for men or less than 0.85 for women is what you should be aiming for.
  • Don’t obsess about the number on the scales. It is not an accurate measure of your health or even of your fat levels, so use it as a guide to your progress.
  • Decide when and how often you want to weigh yourself, and stick to it. Perhaps once a week or once a month – at the same time of day and the same day of the week so you get the best and most accurate idea of which way you are heading.
  • Don’t be disheartened if the scales don’t show a downward trend. Of course, a huge leap up is not great – but a stable weight is fine at the outset. If you are starting to eat more healthily and building up activity levels and muscle, it is likely that your fat levels are decreasing, which you won’t necessarily see on the scales.
  • And finally, set yourself goals – alongside weight loss. After all, weight on its own means very little – it’s the improved health, self-confidence and general happiness that goes with it that we should be striving for. So, set yourself a fitness challenge, develop a new skill or volunteer to help others.

Make sure you look your best, at whatever weight you are, so you can get out there with confidence! That way the scales will have less power over you and become your ally rather than your enemy!

For more hints and tips check our E-book on how to Keep Health Simple