Written by: Anne Marie Forgarty, RGN
How to Reduce the Risk of Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the force that a person’s blood exerts against the walls of their blood vessels. Long-term hypertension can cause complications through atherosclerosis – plaque develops on the walls of blood vessels, causing them to narrow. This narrowing worsens hypertension, as the heart must pump harder to circulate the blood.
While there is some evidence to support how hypertension has a genetic component and family history often causes hypertension, there are several things we can all do at home to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk:
Dietary changes such as reducing sodium (table salt) and salty foods such as bacon, processed foods and salted snacks can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Too much caffeine from tea, coffee, cola, and other caffeine-containing beverages can also lead to high blood pressure, so keep it balanced and take caffeine in moderation.
Take a look at our healthy eating poster for some more guidance.
You’ll strengthen your heart by exercising regularly; therefore, it will pump blood with little effort placing less pressure on the arteries, leading to lower blood pressure. Start off exercising with a little and often approach, gradually building to 30 –40 minutes four times weekly. There are many different forms of exercise, running, aerobic, weightlifting, swimming, and walking but also, gardening, bike rides, team sports, and even household work all count.
Stress can cause hypertension through repeated blood pressure elevations – often, stress will temporarily spike blood pressure, but if this continues over a long period of time, it may result in long–term hypertension. Constant worry, anxiety and tension are all pressure raisers.
Lose excess weight
Even losing a few pounds will help lower blood pressure, but the aim should be to get to a normal weight for your height and build. Cutting out refined carbs, processed foods, takeaways, greasy foods, and sugar will help. Try to have a diet filled with whole grains, fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, and lots of fibre.
Look after your general health
It’s important to self–care, relax, eat well, and exercise. It is paramount also to get enough sleep nightly as poor sleeping patterns are not only linked to hypertension but also are connected to poor physical and mental health in general.
Reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking
Both smoking and drinking large amounts of alcohol have been found to be linked to hypertension. Excessive alcohol intake can cause strokes, heart attacks, liver conditions such as cirrhosis, and depression. Smoking has clinical evidence to be an unhealthy habit that affects the lungs and arteries negatively, leading to numerous conditions. Try to quit smoking and give yourself a chance to have a healthy blood pressure level. Reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking – Hardening of the arteries raises pressure for blood to flow around the body. The chemicals in cigarettes are well documented to increase blood pressure. Giving up smoking is probably one of the best things you can do for your health. Alcohol drives up blood pressure also, so cutting back is advantageous.
Before medicating your hypertension, try to reduce your risk by leading a healthy lifestyle. Small changes can lead to major health benefits.