How can you lower your blood pressure? High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – can lead to heart attacks and strokes if left untreated. But by making some lifestyle changes you can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
Bettina Wallace is a grandmother-of-four from Nottingham and now a British Heart Foundation “Heart Hero” finalist.
She has been nominated as a “Heart Hero” for the work she does in her community – educating Caribbean people about how to adapt traditional meals to make them more heart-healthy.
The BHF Virtual Heart Hero awards take place tonight, with Vernon Kay hosting, for World Heart Day on September 29, 2021.
Bettina’s high blood pressure story begins 15 years ago when she fell ill on the train home from work.
Bettina said: “I was working in Sheffield and I got on the train to come home and I just said to someone I was travelling with, “I don’t feel very well.”
“Suddenly I felt very heavy-headed, and that was it. I didn’t know anything until I got to Nottingham, where I woke up and there was sick everywhere, I had passed out. It was horrible.
“People were fussing around me but I just got up and said “Stop fussing! There’s nothing the matter.”
“They wanted to call an ambulance but I said no, my car’s in the car park. I came off the train and I drove home.”
She added: “That’s me: I’m a get-up-and-go strong individual!”
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But once she was home, Bettina phoned her doctor who told her to come in the next day.
When the doctor told her she had high blood pressure, Bettina was in disbelief.
She explained: “I just said to the doctor, “You must be kidding, I don’t have that kind of thing. I’ve got no symptoms. It could have been something I ate.” I told him it was probably from an egg mayonnaise sandwich!
“He wasn’t having it, he said it’s definitely high blood pressure.”
Like a whopping 4.8 million Brits today, estimated by the British Heart Foundation, Bettina had no idea her blood pressure was dangerously high.
Nicknamed the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has any symptoms at all.
Many only find out their blood pressure has skyrocketed after a serious event, like a heart attack or stroke.
Looking back, she believes she should have had her blood pressure checked regularly as it ran in her family.
The grandmother also remembers her mother was signed off from work with headaches, which she now knows must have been a symptom of high blood pressure.
She says her busy life didn’t slow down after her high blood pressure diagnosis, but if anything got “even busier” as she became involved in educating the Caribbean community about how to prevent high blood pressure.
Bettina has been supported by the British Heart Foundation and recommends using their helpline to talk to experts if you need any advice on any issues relating to the heart.
A diet to lower high blood pressure
When it came to changing her own lifestyle and educating others on how to make more heart-healthy choices, Bettina says there was one main culprit: salt.
The grandmother added salt is especially important in Caribbean cooking – which she enjoys making.
She had to make her own seasonings and now teaches other people how to reduce the salt content in cooking.
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How to prevent low blood pressure
Senior cardiac nurse Regina Giblin adds her tips to Bettina’s advice, on how to reduce your blood pressure.
Ms Giblin said: “Knowing your numbers, so finding out your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, especially if there’s heart disease in your family is really important.
“A cardiologist once said that if they could prescribe one thing for high blood pressure, exercise would be the best thing, so that’s incredibly important as well as diet.”
- Eating the Mediterranean diet: a focus on fresh, natural ingredients, cutting out processed foods.
- Reducing red meat, choosing leaner cuts of meats and removing the skin from chicken.
- Reducing saturated fat including cakes, biscuits and processed foods.
- Eat more beans and pulses.
- Exercise more.
For more information about heart health visit www.bhf.org.uk/
Bettina is a finalist in the British Heart Foundation Virtual Heart Hero Awards 2021 premiering on YouTube at 7pm tonight (September 29) to mark World Heart Day. Hosted by Vernon Kay, celebrity presenters will share inspiring stories of bravery, resilience and overcoming adversity: From young heart heroes to healthcare professionals, CPR lifesavers and inspirational fundraisers – the finalists have all supported the BHF during the pandemic and continued to help others despite the most challenging year. To register to view the awards tonight visit www.bhf.org.uk/heartheroes
The BHF Virtual Heart Hero Awards 2021 are supported by Laerdal Medical.