Healthy Tip: Peak of the numbers week

Main content

At the peak of Know Your Numbers Week, now is the time to get smart with numbers and take stock of your blood pressure.  In the UK a third of men and women suffer with high blood pressure which often leads to other complications such as stroke and heart disease and can cause deaths which are preventable through lifestyle changes and early diagnosis.

Reports by the Heart Research UK and Damart women’s loving hearts campaign have shown that nearly one in two mixed aged women out of 4,000 surveyed had not had their blood pressure checked within the last six month period.  This simple test can be done at pharmacies, GP surgeries, health events and even some gyms, so make every contact count, ask to know your numbers and take control of your numbers by following our simple healthy tips  

Flavour your life
Ditching salt from your cooking and your table could be the best armour against high blood pressure, so swap that shaker for herbs and spices such as paprika, Cajun and garlic.  Don’t be fooled by names like ‘garlic salt’, ‘sea salt’ and ‘celery salt’. Salt contains sodium and water is drawn to it, driving up the blood pressure in your arteries, putting strain on your heart.   Easy ways to spot a high salt level in foods is by reading the labels, the traffic light system will show a red caution colour when salt is above 1.5g per 100g.   

Go for a glass half full
Regularly drinking alcohol above the low risk guidelines of 14 units per week can play havoc with your numbers. Take small steps to reducing your alcohol by asking for a smaller glass, alternating alcohol free drinks on nights out and lining your stomach with heart healthy food on social occasions. Try and have several alcohol free days a week and be careful of the bingeing to keep that heart beating.  

Be a healthy weight
Being overweight puts more strain on your heart to deliver blood around your body. If you have a BMI above 25 and a waist circumference above 80cm for women and 94cm for men, slimming down steadily is a fantastic way of reducing your blood pressure but it must also be done safely. Losing 1-2lbs a week of weight is healthy and realistic and will do wonders for your heart health. Try reducing portion sizes of food by going for a smaller plate, boost your plate with veg and choose wholegrain varieties to fill you up and kerb your munchies for high fat high sugar foods. It’s also important to keep active by aiming for at least 75 minutes each week of vigorous activity like running or playing sports or 150 minutes of moderately paced walking throughout most days of the week.

Unwind your mind 
When your body is in a highly stressed state it releases hormones that speed your heart rate up and constrict your blood vessels (makes them smaller) which in turn increases your blood pressure. Stress can also more importantly contribute to other risk factors of high blood pressure and heart disease such as drinking too much alcohol, being physically inactive and having a poor diet. Managing stress is hard and can be caused by many different things but there are some things that can help, such as speaking to family members or friends, downloading mindfulness apps or participating in exercise. Make more time for yourself and find hobbies that you can enjoy doing that take your mind off things, make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep every night and take regular breaks away when you can to unwind. 

Don’t wait until your numbers are up to take stock of you and your family’s heart health.  Get salt savvy, be active whenever you can, have some alcohol free days and take steps towards feeling more positive and reducing your stress levels.  Checking your numbers and making small changes can make a big difference in keeping blood pressure numbers low for a healthier, happier, longer life.