At least one-quarter of adults have high blood pressure. More than half of them are over 60, but many are younger. Could you be one of them?
Check your blood pressure
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.
Health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and doctors can check your blood pressure with a simple test.
High blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but there are things you can do to lower your blood pressure.
Reducing your blood pressure can make a big difference to your health and help prevent development of stroke or heart disease.
Keeping blood pressure healthy
The following steps towards a healthier lifestyle can help you lower your blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level.
High blood pressure is common and often has no symptoms.
Australians are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week, such as walking, dancing, cycling or swimming. If you're not used to exercising, don't start too quickly. Talk to your doctor about how much exercise will suit you, and build up slowly.
A healthy, balanced diet will help reduce your blood pressure.
Australians are recommended to:
- enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
- Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under 2 years)
- drink plenty of water.
- limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
See www.eatforhealth.gov.au for more information about healthy diet recommendations for Australians.
Cut your salt intake
Australian adults are recommended to consume less than 4g salt (equivalent to 1,600mg sodium) with 6g salt (equivalent to 2,300mg of sodium) the maximum daily upper limit. This upper limit is equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt.
One easy way to eat less salt is to stop adding salt to your food during cooking and at the dinner table. If you regularly add salt to food when cooking, try cutting it out or adding less: you'll rediscover the real tastes of your favourite foods. And when you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if it needs salt.
Don't add salt to food. Read nutrition labels when you're shopping to help you buy healthier foods. Look for foods with 120mg sodium or less per 100g.
Exercising and eating healthily will help you lose weight. Obesity (link to obesity topic) increases your risk of high blood pressure, so it's important to be a healthy weight.
If you want to lose weight, it's important to combine healthy eating with regular exercise and physical activity.
Australians are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate intensity physical activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate and may make you sweat, but you are still able to hold a normal conversation. You don't need to do 30 minutes of exercise all in one go, you can break it up throughout the day into two or three separate 10 – 15 minute sessions. This level of activity is a good start to help improve your health and help prevent development of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
If you want to lose weight you may need to build up to 45 – 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
Limit your alcohol intake
The recommended healthy limits for alcohol are:
- For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
- Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
|Beer (full strength) 4.8% alc||285ml glass (midi or pot) 1.1 standard drinks|
|Red wine 13% alc||150ml average restaurant serving 1.5 standard drinks|
|White wine 11.5% alc||150ml average restaurant serving 1.4 standard drinks|
|Champagne 12% alc||150ml average restaurant serving 1.4 standard drinks|
|Spirits (high strength) 40% alc||30 ml nip - 1 standard drink|
Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits puts you at risk of several health problems, including high blood pressure.
Although smoking doesn't cause high blood pressure, it raises the risk of heart disease. Stopping smoking (link to smoking article) reduces this risk, and is especially important if you have high blood pressure.
Medicines for high blood pressure
Some people with high blood pressure need to take medication to lower their blood pressure, as well as making the healthy lifestyle changes above. Talk to your doctor about whether you need medication for high blood pressure.
Sources: Department of Health and Ageing, Cth (Reduce your risk: new national guidelines for alcohol consumption, Standard drinks guide, Physical Activity Guidelines), eatforhealth.gov.au (Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2013), National Heart Foundation of Australia (Physical activity in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes), NHS Choices, UK (Is your blood pressure healthy?), Nutrient reference values NHMRC (Sodium)