High blood pressure is harmful because it puts a strain on the heart and arteries, resulting in damage to delicate tissues.
Untreated high blood pressure is the most common cause of a stroke. High blood pressure can also affect the eyes and kidney.
The development of high blood pressure in pregnant women can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions. Such conditions as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are prominent.
Causes of high blood pressure
Even though high blood pressure is more common among men there is no single cause. Factors that contribute to high blood pressure include:
- Being overweight
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- A stressful lifestyle
- Excessive salt intake
- Physical inactivity
- Kidney disease
The need to change your lifestyle
You can help yourself a great deal by changing your lifestyle. There is a strong link between being overweight and having high blood pressure.
If your weight is above normal for your height, you should aim to lose the extra pounds and bring your blood pressure down.
You don’t need to aim for an ideal weight. Try to be within the healthy range for your height. Losing 10kg (22lbs) can reduce the bottom figure of your blood pressure by 20 points.
If you can’t lose weight yourself, your doctor may refer you to a dietician for advice on ways to change how and what you eat. You don’t have to give up eating all the food you enjoy. Some people find a slimming group or club very helpful to give moral support.
The do’s and don’ts
Eat fish, white meat (chicken without skin), cottage cheese, low-fat yoghurt, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
Aim for seven items a day of fresh fruit and vegetables (seasonal vegetables and fruit). When fresh vegetables are expensive eat frozen ones instead.
When possible, grill food instead of frying it.
A diet containing plenty of fruit, vegetables and grains increases potassium intake, and this can help to lower your blood pressure too.
Don’t eat butter, cheese and full-fat milk, fried foods and snacks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fatty meat.
Don’t take alcohol more than 21 units a week if you’re a man, 14 units if you’re a woman. One unit is equal to a glass of wine.