Know Your Numbers Week: Making informed choices for a healthier life
It's Know Your Numbers Week, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of monitoring and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Know Your Numbers Week: Taking Control of Your Health
In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to overlook our health amidst the daily hustle and bustle. We often prioritise work, family, and other commitments, leaving our well-being on the backburner. But what if we told you that there are simple numbers you can keep track of that could literally save your life? In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the significance of your health numbers, the dangers of high blood pressure, and practical steps you can take to lower it.
The Importance of Your Health Numbers
In our lives, we encounter countless numbers – phone numbers, PIN codes, passcodes – but do we pay enough attention to the health numbers that truly matter? These numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, waist measurements, and weight, hold the key to our well-being. By keeping a check on these numbers, we can significantly reduce the risk of heart and kidney disease, stroke, and diabetes. They serve as vital warning signs, offering insights into our future health. It's time to take control of these numbers and make positive changes in our lives.
Understanding High Blood Pressure
Before we delve into the specifics of blood pressure, it's essential to understand what it is and why it is so crucial. When our heart beats, it pumps blood throughout our body, supplying it with energy and oxygen. As the blood moves, it exerts pressure against the walls of our blood vessels. This pressure is known as blood pressure. If our blood pressure is consistently high, it puts additional strain on our arteries and heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure measures the force of blood against artery walls when the heart pumps blood out during a heartbeat, while the diastolic pressure measures the same force between heartbeats when the heart fills with blood. Both of these numbers are equally important in understanding our blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Classification Systolic Pressure (mmHg) Diastolic Pressure (mmHg) Normal Below 120 Below 80 Pre-hypertension 120-139 80-89 Hypertension 140 or higher 90 or higher The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a silent killer that often goes unnoticed until it's too late. It is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses. Approximately one-third of people in the UK have high blood pressure, but most are unaware of it due to the absence of symptoms. That's why regular blood pressure checks are crucial in identifying and managing this condition.
How to Lower Your Blood Pressure
The good news is that even if you have high blood pressure, there are steps you can take to bring it down and reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Making healthy lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your blood pressure. Let's explore some practical ways to lower your blood pressure:
1. Reduce Salt Intake
Consuming too much salt can raise your blood pressure over time. It's important to limit your salt intake as much as possible. Most of the salt we consume is hidden in processed foods like bread, breakfast cereals, and ready meals. Avoid adding salt while cooking or at the table. Read food labels and choose low-salt options when shopping.
2. Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Eating more fruits and vegetables can help lower your blood pressure. Aim to consume at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, ideally reaching for seven. A portion is approximately 80 grams or the size of your fist. Dried, frozen, and tinned fruits and vegetables are also acceptable, but watch out for added salt, sugar, or fats.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing weight, if necessary, can significantly reduce your blood pressure and lower your risk of health problems. Focus on choosing natural, non-processed, low-fat foods and increase your physical activity. Set realistic weight loss goals and make sustainable changes to your eating habits. Stay hydrated and eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
4. Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure over time. Stick to the recommended limits of 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women. One unit is roughly equivalent to half a pint of beer or cider, a small glass of wine, or a single pub measure of spirits. Following these limits can help keep your blood pressure in check.
5. Manage Stress
Stress can temporarily raise your blood pressure and negatively impact your overall health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing deep breathing exercises, increasing your physical activity levels, or trying relaxation techniques like pilates or yoga. Taking proactive steps to reduce stress can have a positive impact on your blood pressure.
6. Stay Active
Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and reducing blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, five times a week. If finding a continuous 30-minute slot is challenging, break it down into shorter bursts throughout the day. Every bit of movement counts and contributes to better heart health.
Home Blood Pressure Monitoring
In light of the ongoing pandemic, it's crucial to explore alternative options for monitoring our blood pressure. Home Blood Pressure Monitoring (HBPM) provides a practical and effective solution, allowing us to take control of our health while relieving pressure on healthcare systems. Here are some tips to ensure accurate measurements:
- Avoid measuring your blood pressure immediately after eating, smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages, or exercising, as these activities can temporarily raise your blood pressure.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes, ensuring that your arm is easily accessible for cuff placement.
- Rest for at least five minutes before taking a reading, sitting in a quiet and comfortable environment with your back supported and feet flat on the floor.
- Position your arm at the same level as your heart, providing adequate support for accurate readings.
- Relax and remain calm during the measurement process, as anxiety or discomfort can temporarily elevate your blood pressure.
If you're unsure about the home monitoring process, consult your employer or healthcare provider for guidance. Virtual health checks are also available, where professionals can guide you through the process remotely.
Know Your Numbers Week is a vital reminder to prioritise our health and take control of our blood pressure. By understanding the significance of our health numbers and making positive lifestyle changes, we can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health complications. Whether it's reducing salt intake, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, moderating alcohol consumption, managing stress, or staying active, every step counts towards a healthier future. Embrace the power of home blood pressure monitoring and leverage resources like Tonic's toolbox to empower yourself on your health journey. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference – so let's make our numbers count!
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