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Written by 09/09/2020

Do you know your numbers?

To coincide with Blood Pressure UK’s ‘Know Your Numbers’ week (7th – 13th September 2020), we’re taking look at what blood pressure is, what can cause it to become too high and the steps you can take to keep it under control.

What is blood pressure and how is it measured?

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart around your body. Throughout the day and night, it’s natural for it to go up and down as you’re moving around or resting. However, it’s when it’s consistently high or low that you need to do something about it.

It’s estimated that approximately 6 million people in the UK have high blood pressure and don’t know it¹, so it’s important that you monitor it. You can get it checked at your local GP surgery and some pharmacies or you can buy your own blood pressure monitor and check it at home.

When you have your blood pressure measured, its noted as two numbers:

  • The first number shows the systolic pressure, which is the highest level of your blood pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood around your body.
  • The second number represents the diastolic pressure, which is the lowest level of your blood pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

A blood pressure reading of lower than 140 over 90 is considered as healthy/normal². If you consistently have readings that are much higher than that you should speak to your doctor.

What causes high blood pressure?

For most people, there may be no single cause for their high blood pressure. It's not exactly known what causes high blood pressure, but your lifestyle can affect your risk of developing it. You’re said to be at a higher risk if³:

  • you eat too much salt
  • you don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • you’re not active enough
  • you’re overweight
  • you drink too much alcohol

How to keep your blood pressure down

There are a number of simple and easy ways for you to keep control of your numbers and reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure.

Build in healthy habits – it’s about being smart and making some simple swaps. For example, instead of snacking on crisps and chocolate, eat some fruit or a handful of nuts, or instead of just going for a walk, perhaps go for a short jog.

Look at the labels – on the front of most food items in UK supermarkets, there's a traffic light labelling system that tells you whether a food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Around three quarters of the salt we eat has already been added to our food before we buy it⁴. It’s therefore recommended that you only eat foods that are labelled green or amber for salt.

It’s important to remember that if you have any questions or concerns over your blood pressure, you should speak to your GP and get their advice.

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