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Managing Blood Pressure

The first thing you can do towards managing your blood pressure is to eat a heart-healthy diet.

Heart-healthy eating will also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and other health threats.

Foods to Eat More of

Foods to Limit

Fruit

Vegetables

Whole-Grains

Low-fat dairy products

Skinless poultry and fish

Nuts and legumes

Non-tropical vegetable oils

 

 

Saturated and trans fats

Sodium

Red meat (if you do eat red meat, select the leanest cuts)

Sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages

 

When buying food, get into the habit of reading the labels. Look out for foods containing saturated fat or trans fat as these can raise cholesterol. Avoid eating foods that are high in sodium (salt) as these can increase blood pressure. In general, the higher your salt intake, the higher your blood pressure.

The NHS recommends making the following lifestyle changes to reduce high blood pressure. Some are effective in just a few weeks, others take longer to have an effect. 

  • cut your salt intake to less than 6g (0.2oz) a day 
  • eat a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • be active - get more exercise
  • cut down on alcohol 
  • drink less caffeine – found in coffee, tea and cola
  • stop smoking
  • get at least six hours of sleep a night if you can 
  • lose weight – find out what your ideal weight is using the chart below:

Healthy Weight Chart

You can start taking these steps today, it may even be possible to avoid taking medication if you make these changes early enough.

It is advisable for everyone with high blood pressure to make these healthy lifestyle changes. Some simple changes will often help reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), although some people may also need medication.

Whether medication is recommended depends on your blood pressure and whether you are at risk of developing problems such as heart attacks or strokes. Your doctor will take samples for blood and urine tests and ask questions about your health to determine your risk of developing other problems.

Treatment For Blood Pressure

  • if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home) but your risk of other problems is low – you'll be advised to make some changes to your lifestyle 
  • if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home) and your risk of other problems is high – you'll be offered medication to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes
  • if your blood pressure is consistently above 160/100mmHg – you'll be offered medication to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes

Medication for high blood pressure

There are various medications used in controlling high blood pressure and many people find they need to take more than one kind. Which medications are recommended for you will depend on age and ethnicity.

  • if you're under 55 years of age – you'll usually be offered an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin-2 receptor blocker (ARB)
  • if you're aged 55 or older, or you're any age and of African or Caribbean origin – you'll usually be offered a calcium channel blocker 

Some people may find they need to take medication for blood pressure for the rest of their lives, although this can be reassessed if your blood pressure remains consistently low for several years.

You must take your blood pressure medication as directed because if you miss doses, it won’t be as effective. 

Below is a list from the NHS website of different blood pressure medication:

ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.

Common examples are enalapril, lisinopril, perindopril and ramipril.

The most common side effect is a persistent dry cough. Other possible side effects include headaches, dizziness and a rash.

Angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs)

ARBs work in a similar way to ACE inhibitors. They're often recommended if ACE inhibitors cause troublesome side effects.

Common examples are candesartan, irbesartan, losartan, valsartan and olmesartan.

Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches, and coldor flu-like symptoms.

Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers reduce blood pressure by widening your blood vessels.

Common examples are amlodipine, felodipine and nifedipine. Other medicines such as diltiazem and verapamil are also available.

Possible side effects include headaches, swollen ankles and constipation.

Drinking grapefruit juice while taking some calcium channel blockers can increase your risk of side effects.

Diuretics

Sometimes known as water pills, diuretics work by flushing excess water and salt from the body through urine. They're often used if calcium channel blockers cause troublesome side effects.

Common examples are indapamide and bendroflumethiazide.

Possible side effects include dizziness when standing up, increased thirst, needing to go to the toilet frequently, and a rash.

Low potassium level (hypokalaemia) and low sodium level (hyponatraemia) may also be seen after long-term use.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers can reduce blood pressure by making your heart beat more slowly and with less force.

They used to be a popular treatment for high blood pressure, but now only tend to be used when other treatments haven't worked.

This is because beta-blockers are considered less effective than other blood pressure medications.

Common examples are atenolol and bisoprolol.

Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches, tiredness, and cold hands and feet.