‘4 million people’ are unknowingly living with high blood pressure – 6 simple ways to reduce yours

Do you know what your blood pressure is? If not, you could be one of the four million people under the age of 65 in the UK, including 1.3 million aged under 45, living with untreated high blood pressure.

Often called a silent killer, high blood pressure doesn’t usually have any symptoms, meaning many people are unaware they’re living with a condition that makes them significantly more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or develop vascular dementia.

During May Measurement Month  (MMM) – a global blood pressure screening initiative to improve public awareness of high blood pressure – the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging people to get their blood pressure tested, whether at home, in a pharmacy, or a GP surgery. It comes after BHF analysis estimated four million people under the age of 65 are unknowingly living with the potentially dangerous condition.

Unless a doctor tells you otherwise, your blood pressure should be below 140/ 90. According to the charity, it’s estimated that just over a quarter of UK adults – around 14.4 million people – have high blood pressure, and of these, around nine million have been diagnosed with the condition by their GP.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily treated by a combination of simple lifestyle changes and medication, depending on the individual.

“Getting your blood pressure under control is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke,” says Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF. “Millions of adults of all ages are living with untreated high blood pressure – a ticking time bomb that puts their future health in jeopardy.

“Having your blood pressure checked takes less than five minutes, but it is all too easy to put it on the back burner in our hectic day-to-day lives. That’s why we’re urging everyone to take a moment this month and get their pressure checked – it could ultimately save your life.”

Get your blood pressure checked as soon as possible, and follow these tips from the BHF to get it under control and keep it at a healthy level.

1. Do regular physical activity

Try to do some moderate-intensity activity every day and build up to at least 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

For some people, losing weight is all that’s needed to get their blood pressure down to a normal level.

3. Eat a healthy balanced diet

Use the Eatwell Plate to guide the proportions you include from each food group. In particular, include a variety of fruit and vegetables.

4. Cut down on salt

Salt can increase blood pressure because it reduces the kidneys’ ability to remove water from the bloodstream, and the extra fluid can raise blood pressure. So don’t cook with salt or add any to your food at the table, and cut down on processed foods, which contain a lot of salt.

5. Don’t drink too much alcohol

Drinking too much can raise blood pressure for various reasons, including the tightening of blood vessels and an increase of fats in the blood, which can harden arteries. If you drink alcohol, stick within the recommended limits – no more than 3–4 units a day for men and no more than 2–3 for women.

6. Take medication as prescribed

Most people will need to take more than one type of medicine to control their blood pressure. Don’t stop taking your medication without consulting your GP first.

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