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Hypertension advice - non-pharmacological measures

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Information for Patients Lifestyle - Advice for High Blood Pressure

  • What is Blood Pressure?
    • When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body, as the blood moves; it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes

  • How can changing lifestyle help?
    • Lifestyle changes have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and can be used along with tablets (if prescribed) to help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke

  • What lifestyle changes can help?
    • Weight Aim to keep your weight at a healthy level or reduce your weight if you are overweight
    • Exercise
      • Aim to exercise for 30-60 minutes 3-5 times per week. This should be activity that causes you to feel warm and slightly out of breath. Build up slowly if you are new to exercise and check with your doctor before you start
    • Salt
      • Reducing your salt intake to less than 6g (about 1 level teaspoon) of salt per day. A quarter of the salt we eat comes from adding salt to cooking or at the table and three quarters of the salt we eat comes from processed foods such as bacon, cooked meats, crisps, soups and stock cubes. Food labels can guide you in the right direction;
        • 0.1g sodium per 100g is a low salt option
        • 0.5g sodium per 100g is a high salt option

      • Remember, with a bit of patience you can lose your taste for salty foods. It will take 2-3 weeks for your taste buds to adjust.
        • How to eat less salt: 4 Handy hints
          • 1. Eat less processed foods & more fresh produce
          • 2. Cut down/cut out salt & stock cubes in cooking
          • 3. Avoid adding salt to foods at the table
          • 4. Look for no added salt or low salt on food labels

        • Alternative flavourings & some ideas to try:
          • Pepper, mustard, onions, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice
          • Herbs (e.g. mint, parsley, basil, bay leaves)
          • Spices (e.g. chilli, nutmeg, paprika and ginger)
          • Add grated nutmeg to cabbage, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts
          • Onion, garlic & herbs can be used in casseroles, soups & sauces
          • Dry or fresh mint can be added to potatoes or peas
          • Squeeze lemon juice onto freshly cooked vegetables
          • Marinade or brush meat/fish/poultry with a small amount of oil mixed with lemon juice, pepper and your choice of herb

    • Alcohol
      • Aim to keep alcohol intake below 14 units per week for men and women. One unit is equivalent to approximately
        • 1/2 pint of ordinary strength beer or lager, one 25ml glass of spirits or 125ml glass of wine

    • Caffeine
      • Drinking more than 5 cups of coffee or other high caffeine drinks such as cola can increase blood pressure. Try caffeine free or decaffeinated varieties

    • Relaxation Stress management, meditation, muscle relaxation or any other relaxation therapy can help to reduce blood pressure

    • Smoking
      • There is not a strong link between smoking and high blood pressure. However there is a strong link between smoking and increased risk of heart disease. Stopping smoking does therefore reduce your risk of heart disease


  • 1) Sheffield NHS Trust (July 2009). Lifestyle advice for high blood pressure.
  • 2) DOH (January 2016). How to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level: public consultation on proposed new guidelines.

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