What is blood pressure?

Your heart pumps blood away from itself to the rest of your body in vessels called arteries. This pumping action is what is known as your heartbeat.  Blood pressure is the force of your blood on the walls of your arteries as it is pumped through the body.

Blood pressure is measured in mmHg and has two numbers. The first number, or ‘systolic’ measurement, is taken as your heart pumps and the second number, or ‘diastolic’ measurement, is taken as your heart relaxes. The first figure is the systolic measurement and the second figure is the diastolic measurement, so it’s systolic over diastolic – e.g. 124/80. Blood pressure is variable and fluctuates naturally during the day. This fluctuation is normal and is quite different from being diagnosed with ‘high’ blood pressure.

What is a healthy blood pressure?

A blood pressure of 120 over 80 (120/80) mmHg or below is known as optimal and healthy blood pressure. Above 140/90 mmHg is high and anything in between the two is elevated. Although a very low blood pressure is not necessarily good either, a lower blood pressure reading is better for your heart than high blood pressure.

Managing high blood pressure

Blood pressure depends on many factors, including your age and family history. Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle may help you to manage high blood pressure and bring it down to a healthier level. It’s often difficult to tell if you’ve got high blood pressure, as there are rarely any symptoms. This is why it’s important that you have regular check-ups with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, you should always talk to your doctor first.

Simple changes that help manage blood pressure

1. Reduce the amount of salt in your dietDid you know that too much salt in your diet could have a direct effect on your blood pressure? Like many people, you probably do not realise that you are eating more salt than your body needs. You can control how much salt you include in your diet by: • Avoiding salty snacks like cheese, crisps and salted nuts. • Cutting back on the amount of salt you add to your cooking. • If you do add salt to your cooking, choose a low-sodium salt.2. Have a laughEveryone loves to laugh; it boosts positive feelings and wipes away your worries, even if only for a moment. The wonderful thing about laughter is that it helps you to relax, which in turn positively impacts your blood pressure. In addition to the blood pressure benefits, laughter can also give your social and work life a boost..  Look for humour in everyday situations; learn to take things more lightly. Even watching a funny show on TV every now and then will amuse you and help you de-stress.3. Harness the power of potassium
Potassium is a mineral found in fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and fish. It helps the body to get rid of excess salt. As you know, raised salt levels in the body will negatively affect your cholesterol. Your body is unable to store potassium however, so you need to consume it every day. Choose foods that are a good source of potassium such as fruits, vegetables, milk, dried beans and peas.4. Celebrate little victoriesManaging your blood pressure may seem like an impossible mission but fear not, you can reach your goal if you break it down into easy steps. Write down lists of things you want to do and achieve, and make sure you give yourself a pat on the back each time you achieve one.5. Find an exercise partner. Like so many of us, you have probably made plenty of promises to yourself that you will do more exercise, sign up to a gym and become more active. However, once it comes down to it, it is very easy to find an excuse not to go. Finding a friend to work out with will not only help you get fit and maintain your blood pressure, but it will motivate you and give you someone to talk to whilst working out. 6. Every inch countsAlthough many of us would like to lose weight for various aesthetic motivations, losing weight is imperative for your heart health too. Being overweight can make you two to six times more likely to develop elevated blood pressure than if you are at your ideal weight. 
If you are overweight, then lose weight sensibly by following a healthy eating plan and incorporating more exercise into your day.7. Moderate your drinkingWe all have our guilty pleasures, and some habits, such as drinking too much alcohol, can impact negatively on our blood pressure. If you drink, do so in moderation. Men should have no more than two units of alcohol a day, whilst women and people over the age of 65 should stick to one unit a day.
8. Go bananas for fruit and veg!Because they are an excellent natural source of potassium, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day as part of a healthy diet can help you to maintain your blood pressure. 
Keep munching on bananas, dried fruits, melons, avocados, squash, pumpkin, orange and tomato juice for optimum potassium intake. 9. Know your numbersYou know your vital statistics – height, weight, shoe size – so why not add blood pressure to the list? If your numbers are ‘120 over 80’ or lower, that’s great – you have a healthy blood pressure. If they are higher, start taking control today. 
If you are not sure about your numbers, it is time to get yourself checked out at your local clinic, gym or even at a pharmacy, as many of them now offer blood pressure testing. 10. Ask questionsThere’s nothing wrong with taking advice from others. Now that you know your numbers, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important for you to be able to do all the right things to ensure you have healthy blood pressure, and arming yourself with the right information will help you. 11. Ask a loved one to help you resist temptationManaging your blood pressure is a big job, one that takes a lot of discipline and breaking of habits. A problem shared is a problem halved, so you may find that asking for your loved ones’ help will go a long way in keeping you on the straight and narrow. Have someone scold you if you reach for the salt shaker, cigarettes, or that extra drink. Your heart will thank you (and them) later! 12. A family affairKnowing your family’s heritage and medical history is important, as elevated blood pressure can be hereditary. Once you know if you are at a higher risk of elevated blood pressure, you can start making the right lifestyle and diet changes now to avoid any problems later on.Even if high blood pressure is hereditary in your family, developing elevated blood pressure is not always inevitable as there are many simple diet and lifestyle improvements you can make to help you stay healthy.13. Take time to unwindThe daily stresses and anxieties of life can raise your blood pressure, so it’s important to think about the coping mechanisms you utilise to deal with them. There are many coping strategies that can help you to relax. Go for a brisk walk when you feel tense or try some regular exercise after a busy day; it helps increase endorphins, which will make you feel great!  Also, make sure you are getting adequate sleep each night, as a lack of sleep can lead to greatly increased anxiety levels. 14. Make yourself a promiseChanging your diet and lifestyle isn’t easy for any of us. It can be tempting to give up when you don’t see the results as soon as you’d like. It is easy to lose sight of abstract goals, especially if you are impatient. Why not bring your goals to life by making a promise to yourself?  • Write down what your goal is and how close you think you will be to it in a month’s time, in six months’ time and in a year. Before you know it, you will be able to hold up your results and say, “I did it!”

1. Reduce the amount of salt in your diet

Did you know that too much salt in your diet could have a direct effect on your blood pressure? Like many people, you are probably eating more salt than you need without realising. You can control how much salt you include in your diet by: 

Avoiding salty snacks like cheese, crisps and salted nuts Cutting back on the amount of salt you add to your cooking If you add salt to your cooking, choose a low-sodium salt

2. Have a laugh

We all like to have a laugh! So, you will be pleased to hear that laughter can help you to relax, which in turn positively impacts on your blood pressure. What’s more, laughter can also give your social life a boost and improve your work life too. Jokes and comments in everyday conversation are a great way to make you and your friends laugh.

3. Harness the power of potassium

Potassium, a mineral found in fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, and fish, helps the body to get rid of excess salt. Your body cannot store potassium so you need to consume it every day. Choose foods that are a good source of potassium such as fruits, vegetables, milk, dried beans and peas.

4. Celebrate little victories

Managing your blood pressure may seem like mission impossible but fear not, you can reach your goal if you break it down into easy steps. Make sure you give yourself a pat on the back each time you achieve one!

5. Find an exercise partner

Like numerous others you have probably made lots of little resolutions to do more exercise and get active, but when it comes down to it, it’s all too easy to find an excuse not to go. So why not find a friend to get motivated with – it would be a great way to catch up on the news whilst getting fit and maintaining your blood pressure at the same time.

6. Every inch counts

Many of us want to lose weight so that we can look even more fabulous than we do at the moment. Being overweight can make you 2-6 times more likely to develop elevated blood pressure than if you are at your ideal weight.

If you are overweight, then lose weight sensibly by following a healthy eating plan and incorporating more exercise into your day.

7. Moderate your drinking

We all have our guilty pleasures, but sometimes our habits can impact badly on our blood pressure, such as drinking too much alcohol. If you drink, do it in moderation – no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man], or one drink a day if you’re a woman or older than 65.

8. Go bananas for fruit and veg!

Eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day can help you to maintain your blood pressure, as they are the best natural source of potassium. The key is to eat a good range of different fruits and vegetables so you can be sure that you are getting enough potassium. 

Look out for bananas, dried fruits, melons, avocadoes, squash, pumpkin, orange and tomato juice.

9. Know your numbers

You know your vital statistics – height, weight, shoe size – so why not add blood pressure to the list? If your numbers are ‘120 over 80’ or lower that’s great – you have a healthy blood pressure. If they are higher, start taking control today. 


If you don’t know your numbers, get yourself checked out at your doctor’s surgery, your local gym, at work if you have an Occupational Health department, or simply by talking to your pharmacy clinic as many now offer blood pressure testing.

10. Ask questions

There’s nothing wrong with taking advice from others. Now that you know your numbers, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important for you to have all the information at your fingertips so you can work out the best way for you to maintain your blood pressure.

11. Ask a loved one to help you resist temptation

Managing your blood pressure is a big job. At times you may feel pressure to succumb to temptation. Well, you don’t have to be on your own – reach out to those closest to you and ask for a little help. 


Those closest to you will know your pet loves and hates, and will be able to keep you on the straight and narrow from life’s little stumbles, such as reaching for the salt shaker, the cigarettes or that extra drink. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

12. A family affair

Knowing your family’s heritage is important, and that includes your family’s medical history. Elevated blood pressure can be hereditary, so find out whether it runs in your family. 

Developing elevated blood pressure is not always inevitable as there are many simple diet and lifestyle steps that you can take that will help you to keep it healthy.

13. Take time to unwind

The daily stresses and anxieties of life can raise your blood pressure, so it’s important to think about your coping mechanisms to deal with them. There are many coping strategies that can help you to relax. Go for a brisk walk when you feel tense or try some regular exercise after a busy day; it helps increase endorphins, which will make you feel great! Also try getting plenty of sleep and try deep breathing relaxation exercises

14. Make yourself a promise

Changing our diet and lifestyle isn’t easy for any of us. It can be tempting to give up when you don’t see the results as soon as you’d like. 


It is easy to lose sight of abstract goals, especially if you are impatient. Why not bring your goals to life by making a promise to yourself – write down what your goal is and how close you think you will be to it in a month’s time, in six months time, in a year. Before you know it, you will be able to hold up your results and say, “I did it!”