In 2014–15, almost one-quarter (23%) of Australian adults over 18 years had high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. It’s more common in men than women and increases with age. Almost half of those over 75 years have high blood pressure.
It usually has no symptoms, but high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It’s therefore important to have your blood pressure checked regularly and to take steps to prevent and manage high blood pressure.
While some people will need medication, healthy lifestyle habits also play an important role in preventing and treating high blood pressure. And these habits will also provide many other health benefits.
- Exercising regularly. For most people this means at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days.
- Eating a healthy diet. The right eating plan can play a big role in managing blood pressure. In fact, the DASH diet (short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been found to be as effective as medication for treating mild hypertension and might prevent or delay the need for medication in those with borderline high blood pressure. The DASH diet is an eating plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and low fat dairy products but restricts intake of red meat, added sugars, and sugar-sweetened drinks. Combining the DASH diet with a reduced salt intake provides even greater benefits. For lowering blood pressure, aim to limit sodium intake to no more than 1600mg/day. That’s the amount found in ¾ teaspoon of salt.
- Not smoking. Smoking can increase blood pressure and heart disease risk. If you currently smoke, visit the Quit Now Website or speak to your doctor about options to help you quit.
- Limiting alcohol intake. This means no more than 2 standard drinks each day.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight can increase blood pressure, so preventing weight gain, and losing weight if you are overweight, is important. This can be achieved through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise.
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