What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. This develops if the walls of the arteries lose their natural elasticity and become hard. It can cause the heart to have to work harder to pump the blood around the body, making the heart weaker.
When your doctor tells you your blood pressure reading, it is expressed as one figure “over” another, for example, 120/80. This is considered a ‘normal’ blood pressure reading in a healthy adult. The top, or larger number measures the pressure generated when the heart contracts (pumps). The bottom, smaller number reflects the pressure in the arteries while the heart relaxes between heartbeats.
A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure, but high blood pressure is diagnosed if someone has a BP of 140/90 or above, measured on several occasions.
What can you do?
The good news is that high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. The first step is to know what your blood pressure is – you can find this out at your doctor, local hospital, clinic, or at a Heart and Stroke Foundation screening event near you.
You can minimise your risk of developing high blood pressure by making the following lifestyle changes:
- Following a healthy diet can go a long way to help you control your blood pressure
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet, with small, regular meals
- Try to reduce your salt intake by: reducing the salt added to your food during cooking and at the table, and limiting the use of high salt foods, such as salty snacks, processed meats, take-aways and convenience meals, stocks, soup powders and gravies
- Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, and aim to have at least 5 servings a day
- Choose whole grain and high fibre foods
- Try to include fatty fish (sardines, pilchards, salmon, mackerel) at least twice a week
- Limit red or fatty meat, fried foods and high fat snack foods, and including more ‘good’ fats (vegetable oils, soft tub marg, nuts, seeds, avo) in your diet
- If you drink alcohol, we recommend that you limit it to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men