High blood pressure: how can I lower it?

What can I do to lower my blood pressure? I am in reasonably good health now, but there's a history of stroke in my family.

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

I assume you have been told that your blood pressure is too high. With a family history of stroke, it is essential that you do everything you can to protect yourself. Strokes are devastating; 150,000 people suffer them every year. A third of them die and a third are left disabled. High blood pressure is the main risk factor that you can do something about. Firstly, lose weight. Getting it down into the normal range may bring your blood pressure down. Sometimes a few pounds' weight loss makes a big difference to blood pressure. Your body mass index (BMI) should be less than 25, and you may even want to aim for 22 or 23. To calculate your BMI, take your weight in kilograms and divide it by your height in metres squared (see http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi). Next, think about diet. A low-salt diet will help. Processed foods are often very salty - look at the nutritional information labels. More fruit and vegetables will also help. Too much alcohol puts blood pressure up. Next, think about exercise. Thirty minutes a day of aerobic exercise is ideal, but any exercise is better than none. Regular exercise can be as effective as medication in lowering blood pressure. If changing your diet and lifestyle is not enough, don't be afraid to take medication.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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