You can’t see it, you can’t feel it and, unless you get it checked, you won’t even know you have it. That makes high blood pressure, or hypertension, a quiet killer, one that slowly damages your blood vessels, heart and eyes while simultaneously increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and kidney disease.
It’s estimated that 1 in 3 Australian adults have diagnosed high blood pressure and many more cases may be undiagnosed. The following tips will help to lower high blood pressure, or keep it from rising if it’s at a healthy level. Cutting back on salt will also make a difference.
1. Every morning, take a brisk 15-minute walk. Amazingly, you don’t need a lot of exercise to make a difference to your blood pressure. When Japanese researchers asked 168 inactive volunteers with high blood pressure to exercise at a health club for different amounts of time each week for eight weeks, blood pressure levels dropped almost as much in those who exercised for 30 to 90 minutes a week as in those who exercised for more than 90 minutes a week.
2. Write ‘take medication’ on your calendar every day. Twenty-five per cent of the time, when your blood pressure hasn’t gone down after you’ve been prescribed medication, the reason is that you’ve forgotten to take your pills.
3. Buy a home blood-pressure kit. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that home blood-pressure testing can provide a better overall picture of blood pressure levels than readings in a doctor’s surgery. In the study, surgery readings failed to identify 13 per cent of patients who had high blood pressure only when measured in the surgery (white-coat hypertension), and 9 per cent who had high blood pressure at home but not in the surgery. In addition, a study presented at the 2004 European Society of Hypertension meeting found that people who monitored their blood pressure at home had lower overall blood pressure than those who had their pressure taken only at the doctor’s surgery.
4. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of linseeds on your yogurt in the morning and mix 2 tablespoons into your ice-cream, soup, pasta sauce or other food later in the day. One small study found that adding 4 tablespoons of the seeds significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) in postmenopausal women with a history of heart disease. Linseeds are rich in many nutrients and in fibre.