It’s Know Your Numbers Week; a campaign by Blood Pressure UK that encourages people to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by keeping your blood pressure in check.
According to the charity, 1 in 3 adults in the UK have high blood pressure – with many unaware this is even the case. If you’ve never given your blood pressure a passing thought you’re not alone – more than 29% of the British public admitted they don’t consider it a health issue.
Know Your Numbers Week is a great opportunity to shift your thinking; we’re sharing the basics of what blood pressure is, how to check it and what you can do to keep fighting fit.
What is blood pressure?
The first step to managing your blood pressure is understanding what it is. Simply put, when your heart beats it pumps blood around the body – this gives it the energy and oxygen it needs to function.
As the blood moves it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels – the strength at which it does this is your blood pressure.
Blood pressure can be high, normal, or low; a high blood pressure puts additional strain on your arteries and heart, which could put you at risk of heart attack or stroke.
In general, the lower your blood pressure the healthier you are. If your blood pressure is abnormally low it could also indicate an underlying cause that may need treatment.
How to check it
To find blood pressure two different measurements are recorded:
- Systolic pressure. This is the level of pressure when your heart pumps blood around the body – when pressure is the highest.
- Diastolic pressure. This is the level of pressure when your heart is resting before it pumps again – when pressure is the lowest.
Your readings are given as two numbers or levels, both measured in mmHg – millimetres of mercury. The systolic reading is first and is the highest number, followed by the diastolic which is typically lower. A blood pressure of 120 over 80 – often written as 120/80 – is considered in the normal range.
The simplest way to check your blood pressure is during a general health check at your GP’s office or at your local chemist if they have a blood pressure machine on site. If you’re not sure where to find your nearest station, you can search for it by region on the Blood Pressure UK website.
Keeping your blood pressure in check
Knowing what your blood pressure is will help you mindfully take steps to keep it in a normal range. Blood Pressure UK has put together a blood pressure chart for adults to help make sense of the numbers at a glance.
If you find you have high blood pressure, the good news is there are simple ways to keep it under control. Focus on these five simple lifestyle changes:
- Cut down your salt intake – Avoid processed foods that are high in sodium and choose natural foods instead.
- Eat more fruit and veg – The potassium in fruit and vegetables counters the effect of salt and helps to lower blood pressure. Aim for at least five servings a day.
- Drink in moderation – Stay well within the recommended daily limits to help stop your blood pressure from creeping up over time.
- Move more – Physical activity will help your arteries cope with the demands of daily life. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times per week.
- Lose excess weight – Keeping your weight in the healthy range will prevent excess strain on your heart and arteries.
Do you know your blood pressure number?
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