By Angela Hartley on 17 August 2021
Blood pressure (BP) is the amount of force that your heart has to work against to push blood around your body. If it’s too high, your heart has to work harder and over time high blood pressure can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias.
Angela Hartley (www.healthyhearties.co.uk), a Cardiac Nurse who helps people with heart problems to lose weight and get fit, shares some of her tips to help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Step #1: Maintain a Healthy Weight
Blood pressure (BP) often increases as weight increases. Losing just 4.5kg (10lb) can help reduce your BP. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your BP. This is because your heart doesn't have to work so hard to pump the blood around your body.
Keep an eye on your waistline - use a soft tape measure and measure 2cm above your belly button. Men should have a waist less than 40 inches (102cm) and women's waist measurement should be less than 35 inches (89 cm).
Step #2: Exercise Regularly
Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your BP. And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you haven't been active for a while, increasing your exercise level can lower your BP within just a few weeks.
Step #3: Choose Healthy Food
Foods to include in a healthy diet:
Foods to avoid:
Step #4: Reduce Alcohol
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
The protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of medications - check with your
pharmacist to find out any interactions.
Consider tapering off. If you're a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe high blood pressure and other side effects for several days. When you stop drinking, do it with the supervision of your doctor or taper off slowly, over one to two weeks.
Avoid binge drinking - there is nothing good to say about this.
Step #5: Stop Smoking
It may sound obvious, but avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. On top of all the other chemicals in cigarettes, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your BP by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your BP may remain constantly high. Every time the body takes in cigarette smoke, the arteries constrict, increasing your heart rate and BP.
Smoking can also cause a build up of plaque in the arteries, causing blockages & leading to heart attack or stroke.
Step #6: Reduce Stress
Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure so it's important to reduce where possible. Think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress e.g. by delegating tasks, saying 'no' more or by asking others for help. If you can't eliminate all of your stressors, try to manage with them in a healthier way. See the next page for tips.
Try not to let stress build up - it's better to deal with small problems sooner rather than letting them build up.
I'm Angela Hartley, Cardiac Nurse and Exercise Coach and I'm here to help you get fitter, stronger and get your mojo back.
No matter how unfit you are or what heart condition you have, we can help! As part of the programmes on offer you will feel part of a community, be able to use a range of tools to keep you motivated and have access to a members area on the website where you can interact with others, learn more about your heart condition and track your progress.
Learn more about my programmes here.