High blood pressure is one of the most important preventable causes of heart disease and stroke in the UK. If you are over 40, or have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease you should consider a check up with your GP. The gold standard for diagnosing high blood pressure now is with a 24-hour blood pressure monitor.
A one off reading in the clinic can decide if this is a further test you need to consider undergoing. The machines now are easy to fit and simple to carry. A cuff is attached to your arm, connected to a small box. Your blood pressure is then regularly measured over the course of a day. You will experience a gentle squeeze on the supper arm as the cuff inflates for a minute. The box is removed when all the readings are complete, and connected to a computer, which can analyse the data for your doctor to decide on the plan for you. It’s so simple.
If you are told that you have slightly raised blood pressure or have been told to come back and check, or even if you have been told you have high blood pressure and need to start medication- what can you do to help yourself? This is one of the most common consultations I have with my patients. Most patients I see are very keen to try and take matters into their own hands and help themselves.
Some simple lifestyle measures can be very helpful to reduce your blood pressure and thereby reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
It can be quite overwhelming for some patients to initiate a load of changes in one go. What you can do it take one are to focus on each week for 3 weeks That way you might improve your motivation and chance of success.
At the same time as embarking upon lifestyle changes, your doctor may want to initiate other tests to look at kidney function, heart function, cholesterol and blood sugar. This might mean a blood test or an ECG. Your social habits such as drinking and alcohol can be assessed and advised on too. Alcohol is major contributor to high blood pressure. The website www.drinkaware, can be a useful starting place to assess your own risk and get information.
Here is my three-week lifestyle plan.
Reduce your intake of processed, refined salty food. Drink at least 2 litres of water a day. The minerals, Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium are all important for blood pressure.
I would aim to choose 5 of these foods a day to add to your diet.
|SKIM MILK||ASPARAGUS||BROCCOLI||GOATS CHEESE|
|AVOCADO||ADZUKI BEAN||BANANA||CARROT JUICE|
|SOY NUTS||CHARD||PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS||YOGHURT|
|BROWN RICE||BAKED SQUASH||CASHEW||RASPBERRIES|
|PUMPKIN SEEDS||SPINACH||SUNFLOWER SEED||BUCKWHEAT|
You don’t need fancy equipment or a new gym membership to get moving. Put on some comfortable shoes and get out walking. No other lifestyle change will provide such immediate and long-term benefits to your health, wellbeing and blood pressure. If it’s been a while since you exercised, start with just 10 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes per day until you are walking 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Don’t run or jog to begin with, take it easy. This is a long-term go-slow approach to make sure it is sustainable.
If you can add some regular stretching like yoga, plus some light weight training a couple of times a week then you will have a total body conditioning programme.
This week you need to focus on spirit and emotions. We are working on cortisol levels and what triggers your irritation, temper and adrenaline rushes. Fear, anxiety, anger and frustration will all start to contribute to your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. Consider
- TALK to a friend, counsellor or psychologist
- RELEASE-write a journal, cry at a movie, punch a punch-bag
- SLOW- yoga or tai chi classes or go online and find a utube
- STILL- meditate or do a guided visualisation for 10-15 minutes per day.
A more personalised and detailed nutritional assessment is so important with blood pressure and there are supplements to consider on an individual basis. This is something your regular GP might not be so familiar with. It’s always best to get the help and advice of someone trained in nutrition for this. What could help you will depend upon your own individual history. Consider Coenzyme Q, Magnesium supplements, Omega 3, Garlic and Hawthorn. But start with the three week plan and take it from there.
Lifestyle changes can have big impacts and can be incorporated alongside any medication regime you might need.