Below are some tips to make sure your blood pressure reading is accurate (whether at home or in the waiting room):
- Wear loose clothing
- Don’t rush straight in from exercising or a stressful journey to take your blood pressure
- Do not have a drink containing caffeine, eat a heavy meal or smoke within the half hour before taking your blood pressure
- Sit quietly for at least 5 minutes with your back against a chair, and your arm supported, uncovered, at the level of your heart
- You will need to wrap the cuff around the bare skin of your arm
- Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure
- Take two measurements of your blood pressure, and if these are very different take a third, and give us the lowest of these readings (use the same arm each time).
Why is your blood pressure so important?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it put extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.
It can be scary being diagnosed with high blood pressure. But, if you understand it and take control of it there’s a lot that you can do to lower it and reduce your risks. Imagine the heating system in a house – the lower the pressure the water is being pumped through the pipes, the longer the pipes will last …
If you smoke this is much more dangerous with high blood pressure and we strongly urge you to stop. We can help you with this. It seems hard, but people succeed at it all the time and then live longer and healthier lives as a result.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce blood pressure naturally. Even if you are on medication, reducing your BP further through lifestyle change will reduce your risk of a future heart attack or stroke. The research is incredibly strong that regular exercise, losing some weight, relaxation exercises and changing what you eat is very beneficial for your blood pressure. One of the many advantages of home BP monitoring is that you can soon start to see the benefits of making these changes! However, you can use our waiting room BP machine as often as you want to help you monitor your results.
To help reduce your blood pressure naturally you can think about:
Regular exercise will reduce your blood pressure. It is important to do at least 30 minutes every day, enough to get you slightly out of breath. Brisk walking is fine or you may prefer but any activity is beneficial. It is important this becomes part of daily life.
- If you are overweight, even small amounts of weight loss may improve your BP. Work hard on this and also aim to decrease your salt, sodium and potassium intake.
- Eating a low sodium and low salt but potassium rich diet is very important, and brings rapid benefits in reducing BP
- Eat no added salt, and eat mostly low salt foods
- This means label watching and looking for <300mg salt per 100g of food whenever possible
- For simple information on reducing salt and boosting potassium click on these links: Reducing salt Boosting potassium
Other hints and tips:
- Total and saturated fat and red meats can be replaced with low fat dairy products, fish and poultry
- Instead of sugar and sweet drinks try a small amount of plain, dark chocolate as your ‘treat’; this actually helps bring BP down!
- Refined carbohydrate – white bread, pasta etc can be replaced with whole grain ‘brown’ varieties
- Reduce alcohol intake - less than 1-2 drinks daily
- Have a maximum of 1 or 2 cups of coffee/tea a day
- Increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet
DASH diet is a diet plan (low salt, high fruit and veg) which has been shown to effectively reduce BP very quickly, irrespective of weight loss. You can find out more about the DASH diet from various books - click here to find out about one.
Relaxation exercises and stress reduction
- Relaxation exercises and stress reduction have been shown to reduce blood pressure.
- 15 minutes of meditative slow breathing (reducing your breathing rate to less than 10 breaths per minute) at least 4 times a week produces sustained reductions in BP.
- Mindfulness is a form of meditative relaxation which is helpful for a wide range of stress-induced problems, but which also reduces blood pressure and is highly recommended as a healthy daily practice (there are books available about this)
- For smartphone users, see the Breathe Away High Blood Pressure app.