If you are concerned about high blood pressure, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to lower blood pressure levels and reduce your risk of associated illness...

High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – rarely has symptoms. For most people, the only way of knowing you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. People with high blood pressure are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you do have high blood pressure, there are ways of bringing it down, including through diet. 

What is high blood pressure?

heartBlood pressure indicates the force inflicted on the walls of your arteries as blood is pumped around the body. You need a certain amount of pressure to keep blood flowing but if this pressure is too high it can create microscopic tears in the artery walls and speed up the hardening of the arteries. 
Your heart is a pump that beats by contracting and then relaxing. The pressure of the blood flowing through the arteries varies at different times in the heartbeat cycle. A blood pressure reading gives two numbers – the first number is the systolic pressure, when the heart contracts and forces blood round your body. Diastolic pressure is the second, lower value and is the pressure recorded between heartbeats, when the heart is resting. 

Know your numbers

Normal blood pressure readings for adults are between:Know your numbers
90-130 (systolic) / 60-80 (diastolic)
High blood pressure readings for adults are between:
140-190 (systolic) / 90-100 (diastolic)
Note – if either your systolic or diastolic readings are high, this can indicate high blood pressure. 

How food, drink and lifestyle choices can affect blood pressure

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is the most important recommendation for those with high blood pressure. For some people, even losing modest amounts of weight can lead to a reduction in blood pressure. Lose weight slowly and healthily (between 1lb and 2lbs a week) to increase your chances of keeping it off. Regular exercise will reduce blood pressure and plays an important part in losing weight.
Skip the saltsalt
There is a link between having too much salt in your diet and having high blood pressure. Most diets have more salt (sodium) than we need. The target is to have less than 6g of salt a day. Food labelling laws require salt to be presented on the label – getting into the habit of checking before you buy can help you to choose lower salt versions where relevant.
Try to reduce the amount of salt you eat. This may help keep your blood pressure down. Cook without adding any salt, and avoid adding salt to your food at the table. Use herbs and spices to flavour your food instead.

The majority of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods. Check the ingredients labels on foods to find out which have the least salt. Avoid foods that contain a lot of salt – such as sauces, canned soups, processed meats, salted nuts and snacks such as crisps and biscuits. Many basic foods such as bread and cereals contain a lot of salt too.