Your heart health matters ❤️
Keeping an eye on our blood pressure is a great way to be proactive with our health. Changes can be a sign that something isn't quite right. Helping to detect problems early means you can take the necessary steps to get swift help and treatment if needed. That's why our pharmacists recommend getting checked at least once a year.
Checking our blood pressure shows us how well our heart is functioning by measuring the force of blood flowing through our arteries. This is shown as systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure – this is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, forcing blood around your body over the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.
Most people know that high blood pressure increases the risk of health problems, therefore lowering it is one of the best things we can do for our health. Small changes can make a big difference. By lowering your systolic blood pressure - the top number on your reading - by 10mmHg you can lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 20%.
The best way to reduce blood pressure is through lifestyle changes. Remember you don’t have to change everything all at once, it’s about making small changes that work for you and turning them into lifelong habits.
Top tips to lower your blood pressure
Start with small changes. Going for more fresh food over processed food options will reduce your salt intake. There are many great low salt alternatives available, so why not try making a switch?
While cooking try tasting your food before adding any salt, you may find by experimenting with other herbs and spices that you don’t feel you need to add salt at all.
Getting our 5 a day is important for keeping our bodies healthy. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre that help to fend off numerous health problems and can also counter the effect of salt in our diet, which raises blood pressure. They also contain potassium which is essential for the body and helps to lower blood pressure.
Remember every change helps so if you currently eat, on average, two portions of fruit and vegetables a day, try increasing it to three.
Cutting down on alcohol is a great way to lower blood pressure. There are several simple ways to reduce our alcohol intake, occasionally swapping to a non-alcoholic or low-alcohol alternative is increasingly easier while out and about. If you often have a drink before and during dinner you could try only having an alcoholic beverage with dinner, while you’re eating.
There are many other health benefits to cutting down and if you’re interested in having more drink free days there are great resources available to help:
Exercising daily is great for keeping our hearts healthy. Like all the other muscles in our body the more we use it the stronger it gets. Regular exercise that increases the heart rate for 20 minutes or more decreases the force on arteries and lowers blood pressure.
Everyone’s fitness is at a different level so take some time to find the right activity for you. If you haven’t been active in a while start with standing, increasing how long you stand each day to build strength. You can always start with gentle stretches or walking from room to room, increasing a little each day.
Walking is one of the best ways to reduce blood pressure and can be as effective as some medications.
If you would like some support getting started, try our Wellbeing Walks. They are short walks, run by friendly, specially trained volunteer walk leaders, who are on hand to provide encouragement and support. All walks are free of charge and are open to everyone, just come along and join us.
Caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure levels due to the stimulatory effect it has on the nervous system. Reducing your daily caffeine intake has many health benefits including reducing blood pressure. It can also help improve sleep, improve how your body absorbs nutrients and so much more.
Try reducing the number of caffeine drinks you have per day. Start small by switching a cup or two to decaf or lower caffeine options, like green tea. If you’re an avid coffee drinker try the occasional cup of tea instead.
Learn more about how caffeine affects the heart from the British Heart Foundation.
If you’re a smoker, every cigarette you smoke will cause a temporary rise in blood pressure forcing your heart to work harder. One long term effect of smoking is the narrowing of arteries, high blood pressure can also cause this.
Your blood pressure decreases while you’re sleeping therefore if you’re having trouble sleeping your blood pressure remains higher for longer increasing the strain on your heart. There are many other benefits to improving sleep, that’s why if you’re struggling with your sleep, it’s a good place to start to help improve your overall health.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and both can greatly affect one another. If you’re struggling with stress and worry this can have an impact on your blood pressure.
Mindfulness is not just sitting still and focusing on breathing. There are lots of different types and ways to practice mindfulness. It can be practical or active - you may enjoy mindful walking or creative mindfulness like drawing, colouring, or doing crafts.
Have you're free blood pressure check
If you’re over 40, and don’t have a diagnosis high blood pressure, then you are eligible for a FREE NHS blood pressure check.
You can have your blood pressure checked - for free - at any Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacy. No Appointment necessary.
It only takes 5 minutes and could even save your life!
Pop into your local pharmacy to find out your numbers today. ❤