Dr Zac Turner: Five ways to reduce high blood pressure

Dr Zac Turner: Five ways to reduce high blood pressure

Dr Zac Turner explains how you can stop a common health problem in its tracks by doing these five things.

Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner talks about how you can lower your blood pressure.

QUESTION: Hi Dr Zac, I’ve read your previous column on lowering cholesterol and I wanted to ask you about blood pressure.

I’ve been told by my mum that high blood pressure runs in the family but I don’t have a clue what that actually means. What does high blood pressure mean, and how can I lower it? —Alex, 37, Melbourne

ANSWER: Hi Alex, great question! And don’t worry, it’s one that I’m asked about all the time. I understand you may not be comfortable going to see your GP with questions like these, but I highly recommend it over googling it yourself.

Around one in three Australians are diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) so this question is pertinent to most readers.

To answer your first question plain and simple: Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood pushing on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood around the body. High blood pressure is tricky to keep track of because it shows barely any symptoms. You can experience headaches, nosebleeds or shortness of breath but this is typically when blood pressure is dangerously high.

A nifty gadget that I recommend to my patients who want to regularly check their blood pressure is a BP monitor – you can get them from chemists and pharmacies for about $60. Blood pressure is measured in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury.

Blood pressure lower than 120/80mm Hg is considered a normal level. Blood pressure that’s 130/80mm Hg or more is considered high.

To offer you some relief, there are ways to lower your blood pressure. Adopting simple habits in your life, and kicking a select few to the curb, will greatly affect your blood pressure. Here’s five Dr Zac tips to lower blood pressure.

Lose weight

Many patients with high blood pressure tend to be overweight. By losing up to 2-5kg, you can reduce your blood pressure, and lower the risk of other potential medical issues.

Be picky with your diet choices

The foods you eat greatly affect your blood pressure, and simple choices can make a big difference. Start by cutting back on sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sugar and fructose has been shown in studies to increase blood pressure more than salt.

You may be asking what refined carbs actually are? They include white bread, bagels, waffles, white rice and pizza dough.

You should be looking to eat foods that are high in potassium. Firstly it lowers the amount of salt in your system, and secondly it eases tension in your blood vessels. Foods high in potassium include bananas, apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.

quit smoking

Smoking cigarettes and hypertension go hand in hand. If you do smoke, I recognize it is incredibly difficult to quit, however by stopping you are saving yourself from a tragically preventable death.

Exercise more regularly

Don’t feel as though you have to train like a marathon runner to lower your blood pressure. Exercise can be quite simple, such as walking instead of driving, playing a team sport, or even household chores. Go and buy yourself a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps every day.

Take prescription medication

If lifestyle choices aren’t making an impact on your high blood pressure, I recommend you see your local GP about it. Most likely they will prescribe you with medication. These medications do work and will improve your long-term health.

Alex, there’s no need to fear! As you can see high blood pressure is an easy fix.

Got a question: askdrzac@conciergedoctors.com.au

Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and a co-owner of telehealth service, Concierge Doctors (conciergedoctors.com.au). He was a registered nurse and is also a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist along with being a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering.

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