According to Public Health England data, high blood pressure affects more than one in four adults in England, equivalent to around 12.5 million people in 2015.
It is the third biggest risk factor for premature death and disability in England (after smoking and poor diet). Additionally, at least half of all heart attacks and strokes are associated with high blood pressure and it is a major factor risk factor for chronic kidney disease, heart failure and dementia.
If you do have high blood pressure, there are steps you can take to bring it down. Read on to find out what high blood pressure means, and seven tips for reducing your blood pressure.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers:
Both are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). As a general guide:
So, how can you keep your blood pressure under control? Here are seven tips.
1. Exercise more
If you regularly increase your heart and breathing rates, over time your heart gets stronger and it takes less effort to pump blood. This puts less pressure on your arteries and lowers your blood pressure.
Government advice recommends that adults aged between 19 and 64 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, each week.
A 2013 study in the US found that sedentary older adults who participated in aerobic exercise training lowered their blood pressure by an average of 3.9% systolic and 4.5% diastolic.
2. Reduce your salt intake
Eating too much salt is one of the biggest causes of high blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be.
This is because salt makes your body retain water. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure.
Tips for reducing your salt intake include:
Experts recommend that 6g of salt a day is the maximum you should eat. The less you eat the better.
3. Stop smoking
Stopping smoking has a range of health benefits, but one is to reduce your blood pressure. This is because smoking causes an immediate but temporary increase in your blood pressure and an increase in your heart rate.
Over time, the chemicals in tobacco can also damage your blood vessel walls, causing inflammation, and narrowing your arteries. These hardened arteries cause higher blood pressure.
4. Lose weight
Obese men are more than twice as likely to develop high blood pressure and obese women three times more likely.
Public Health England say: “There is a strong and direct relationship between excess weight and high blood pressure.”
If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can help you to bring your blood pressure down. A 2016 review of several studies  reported that weight loss diets reduced blood pressure by an average of 3.2 mmHg diastolic and 4.5 mmHg systolic.
5. Take the right medication
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may have recommended taking one or more types of medication to help keep it under control.
Medication is normally in the form of tablets to be taken once a day. Common blood pressure medication includes:
The type of medication your doctor may recommend for you will depend on factors such as your recorded blood pressure, your age and your ethnicity.
6. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways you can increase your overall health. As well as cutting down the amount of salt in your food (see above) it’s important to:
7. Reduce your stress
If you can reduce your stress level, then this will help to reduce your blood pressure. There are countless different ways of reducing stress and so you may have to try a few ways and see what works for you.
Many people find that using mindfulness can help them reduce stress. Being stressed is often as a result of things that are outside of your control or concerns that haven’t yet materialised. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present and what you’re feeling now. You could:
If you are struggling, there are lots of useful mindfulness apps that you can download. Apps such as Calm and Headspace have multiple modes to help you to increase happiness, reduce stress and build self-esteem. They also provide a variety of techniques that encourage relaxation, from meditation to masterclasses and exercises designed to help you achieve restful sleep.
Studies have also found that listening to music daily can reduce systolic blood pressure. An Oxford University study  found that certain works encourage blood pressure to drop, so listen to Va Pensiero by Verdi, Nessun Dorma by Puccini and Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, then you may be concerned that you will be refused for life insurance. You may have worries that you can’t obtain the protection you need to ensure your family are supported financially if something happens to you.
The good news is that there are plenty of insurers who will consider an application for life insurance from someone with a pre-existing condition such as high blood pressure.