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Reducing your blood pressure can make a big difference to your health.

Reducing your blood pressure can make a big difference to your health.
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How to lower blood pressure

More than a third of adults have high blood pressure. More than half of them are over 60, but many are younger. Could you be one of them?

Check your blood pressure

High blood pressure is common and often has no symptoms. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

Health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and doctors can check your blood pressure with a simple test.

High blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but there are things you can do to lower your blood pressure.

Reducing your blood pressure can make a big difference to your health and help prevent development of stroke or heart disease.

Keeping blood pressure healthy

The following steps towards a healthier lifestyle can help you lower your blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level.

Exercise

Australians are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week, such as walking, dancing, cycling or swimming. If you're not used to exercising, don't start too quickly. Talk to your doctor about how much exercise will suit you, and build up slowly.

Healthy eating

A healthy, balanced diet will help reduce your blood pressure.

Australians are recommended to:

  • enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
    • plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
    • fruit
    • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high-fibre cereal varieties, such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
    • lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
    • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under two years)
  • drink plenty of water
  • limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol

See www.eatforhealth.gov.au for more information about healthy diet recommendations for Australians.

Cut your salt intake

Australian adults are recommended to consume less than 4g salt (equivalent to 1,600mg sodium), with 6g salt (equivalent to 2,300mg of sodium) the maximum daily upper limit. This upper limit is equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt.

One easy way to eat less salt is to stop adding salt to your food during cooking and at the dinner table. If you regularly add salt to food when cooking, try cutting it out or adding less: you'll rediscover the real tastes of your favourite foods. And when you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if it needs salt.

Read nutrition labels when you're shopping to help you buy healthier foods. Look for foods with 120mg sodium or less per 100g.

Lose weight

Exercising and eating healthily will help you lose weight. Obesity increases your risk of high blood pressure, so it's important to be a healthy weight. If you want to lose weight, it's important to combine healthy eating with regular exercise and physical activity.

Australians are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate-intensity physical activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate and may make you sweat, but you are still able to hold a normal conversation. You don't need to do 30 minutes of exercise all in one go, you can break it up throughout the day into two or three separate 10 – 15 minute sessions.

This level of activity is a good start to help improve your health and help prevent development of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

If you want to lose weight you may need to build up to 45 – 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.

Limit your alcohol intake

You should be aware of the amount of alcohol in a standard drink. The recommended healthy limits for alcohol are:

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
  • Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
Beer (full strength) 4.8% alc 285ml glass (midi or pot) 1.1 standard drinks
Red wine 13% alc 150ml average restaurant serving  1.5 standard drinks
White wine 11.5% alc 150ml average restaurant serving 1.4 standard drinks
Champagne 12% alc 150ml average restaurant serving 1.4 standard drinks
Spirits (high strength) 40% alc 30ml nip - 1 standard drink

Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits puts you at risk of several health problems, including high blood pressure.

Quit smoking

The nicotine in cigarettes can temporarily raise your blood pressure, and smoking also raises the risk of heart disease. Stopping smoking reduces this risk and is especially important if you have high blood pressure.

Medicines for high blood pressure

Some people with high blood pressure need to take medication to lower their blood pressure, as well as making the healthy lifestyle changes above. Talk to your doctor about whether you need medication for high blood pressure.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recommends that you regularly review with your doctor or specialist any medications you are taking for high blood pressure or high cholesterol to assess the ongoing benefits and risks.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recommends that if you have raised blood pressure and are concerned about cardiovascular disease but are low risk, talk to your doctor or specialist about whether the benefits will outweigh the risks involved with taking medication to lower your blood pressure.

For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Last reviewed: October 2016

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