Nearly one in 3 Australians have high blood pressure, and over half are not aware they have it.

Here are 5 tips to prevent and manage high blood pressure:

Tip 1: Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight

If you're overweight, lose 5-10% of your current body weight. An appropriate weight loss diet, rich in nutrients necessary for blood pressure control, can help reduce blood pressure by 11.2 to 16.1 mmHg off the top number (systolic blood pressure) to 7.5 to 9.9 mm Hg off the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure).

Tip 2: Reduce sodium/salt intake

Reducing salt intake by around a third could lead to a 20% reduction in heart disease and stroke.

According the Australian Health Survey, the estimated average consumption of salt for those aged 2 and over is 6g per day. That’s equivalent to 2400mg of sodium. Its peaks at around 3100mg sodium a day or 8g of salt – this is way more than the recommended dietary intake for adults which is only 460-920mg sodium per day with an upper limit of 2300mg. It’s estimated a reduction of salt by 6 g per day would lower blood pressure by 7/4 mmHg in individuals with high blood pressure and 4/2 mmHg in those with normal blood pressure.

Toss the salt shaker, avoid adding salt to cooking, flavour foods with herbs and spices instead, and look for products with less than 120mg sodium per 100g – they won’t always be labelled “No added salt” or “Low sodium”.

Tip 3: Potassium

Potassium blunts the effect of salt on blood pressure so make sure you get adequate potassium from fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and dairy products every day. Potassium recommendations are 2800mg and 3800mg daily for women and men respectively. The combination of these foods mentioned, along with wholegrains, fish and a reduction in red meats, discretionary foods, and sugar-containing drinks, ie the DASH diet or Mediterranean Diet, can result in a significantly reduced systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure.

Tip 4: Exercise every day

Get exercising – start slow, use a pedometer and aim for at least 30 minutes a day to help reduce blood pressure or an hour a day (10,000 steps) for weight loss.

Tip 5: Reduce stress

Check stress levels – finding a way to reduce stress is vital for heart health.  Laughing, yoga, and getting 8 hours sleep a night may all help.

Lisa Yates is an advanced practising dietitian and a dietitian at Nuts for Life

Last Reviewed: 27/05/2016