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High blood pressure (or hypertension) is something many people start to worry about as they get older, especially since studies have shown that it could be affecting up to 30% of the population as a whole. High blood pressure doesn't necessarily show any symptoms and that is why it is so important for everybody to have their blood pressure checked over the age of 50. It is completely possible to walk around with hypertension without realizing until serious consequences occur, such as a heart attack.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the measure of the strength of the blood pushing against the sides of the blood vessels. If the pressure is too high it puts more strain on the arteries and therefore the heart,

which can eventually result in a heart attack or a stroke. When a reading is taken it is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in two numbers. The first number is called the systolic reading, which is the highest level the blood pressure reaches when the heart is beating, and the second number is diastolic, which is the lowest pressure level seen when the heart is relaxing. A normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg, whilst a systolic reading of over 140 or a diastolic over 90 indicates hypertension. There are several ways to have blood pressure checked, including going to a doctor, pharmacy or by buying a blood pressure monitor.

Hypertension doesn't necessarily have a specific cause, and may not be related to any other health concern. Occasionally it is related to another problem such as diabetes, and in such a case will have to be treated with medication to reduce the blood pressure. However the majority of people with high blood pressure will not have anything else wrong with them, and can simply alter their lifestyle to bring it down. Here are eight excellent tips on how to reduce your blood pressure without the need to resort to medication:

  • » Exercise More: Taking part in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least five times per week can lower blood pressure between 4 and 9 mm Hg. Exercise is not only an excellent method for reducing hypertension but also for a preventing developing it in the future. Good forms of exercise to choose are swimming, walking and cycling and once an exercise regime is begun results can be seen in as little as a few weeks.
  • » Lower Your Salt Intake: Reducing sodium in the diet is absolutely essential to anyone with high blood pressure. For those who already have hypertension then the daily sodium intake should be no higher than 1500 mg. It is relatively easy to reduce salt consumption, simply by not adding extra salt to food and by always reading the salt levels on food packaging labels. Also it is best to avoid eating foods such as takeaways, where there is no control over the salt level in the food.
  • » Drink Decaff: It is debatable whether caffeine has any effect on blood pressure, however some studies have found that it does raise the pressure in the short term by tightening the blood vessels in the body. This can be combated by drinking decaffeinated coffee and avoiding high caffeine drinks such as cola.
  • » Stop Smoking: A massive contributor to high blood pressure is smoking.
    In fact nicotine can raise the blood pressure by 10 mm Hg, which is constant if a person is smoking all day. The only way to tackle this is to cut down or quit smoking altogether, as well as avoiding second hand smoke.
  • » Eat Dark Chocolate: Surprisingly dark chocolate is actually excellent for hypertension if eaten everyday. This is because dark chocolate contains flavonols which work by making the blood vessels more elastic. It is important to realize that it is specifically dark chocolate, containing 70% cocoa or more, that contains the flavanols in sufficient quantities to have an impact. Aim to have around half an ounce per day.
  • » Choose High Potassium Foods: Foods high in potassium actually counteract the effects of sodium, which in turn helps to bring down hypertension. Foods with high levels of potassium include dried herbs, chilli powder, bananas, avocados and cocoa powder. Yet another reason to eat dark chocolate!
  • » Drink The Right Amount of Alcohol: Alcohol is a confusing subject when it comes to blood pressure. If drank in moderation it can potentially lower blood pressure, however if too much is consumed then it has the opposite effect! This is why it is so important to get the balance right in order to stay healthy.
    To get the maximum benefit from alcohol then one drink per day is enough and any more can have a negative effect on the blood pressure. One drink is around half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine, although it is important to research this further for specific alcoholic drinks. Drinking all your weekly drinks in one sitting is definitely not an option, as binge drinking increases the blood pressure immediately.
  • » Take Daily Supplements: Studies have shown that co-enzyme Q10 can reduce blood pressure by up to 17 mmHg. However there are few food sources high enough in co-enzyme Q10 to make a difference, which makes it necessary to take a supplement every day. An appropriate dosage is 60 mg three times per day, although as with anything it is always best to consult your doctor first.

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