Part 2. How can I reduce my Blood Pressure?

In the first part of this two part series on blood pressure we discussed what blood pressure is, it’s causes and how you can identify high blood pressure. In this article we will discuss what you can do to reduce your blood pressure.

How can I reduce my Blood Pressure?

Everyone can benefit from taking measures to lower blood pressure. Even if you have a healthy blood pressure you can still take steps to ensure it remains healthy. The following lifestyle modifications can help significantly lower your blood pressure:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Increase fruit and vegetables
  • Become more physically active
  • Try to manage stress

1. Maintain a healthy weight

It is well researched that being overweight can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure. Maintaining a well balanced diet can considerably reduce your blood pressure. Losing as little as 10% of excess weight can lower blood pressure.

Being overweight is also a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.

Consult with your GP/Nurse to set realistic achievable goals for weight reduction.

10% weight reduction can lower your BP by 10-20mmHg.

2. Stop Smoking

If you smoke, stop! Smoking is another major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Once you quit, your risk of having a heart attack will be halved within two years. There are lots of different methods to help make quitting easier. Consult with your GP/Nurse to see what is suitable for you.

3. Reduce your salt intake

If everyone in Ireland reduced salt intake by half a teaspoon (2.4 grams per day), this could prevent approximately 900 deaths each year from stroke and heart disease.

People in Ireland take too much salt and this is directly linked to high blood pressure. It is the sodium in salt that affects blood pressure.

Tips for cutting down on your salt intake

  • Do not add salt to your food at the table.
  • Avoid adding salt to food while cooking.
  • Cut down on processed foods that are generally high in salt.
  • Try flavouring your foods with pepper, spices or herbs as alternatives to salt.
  • Sea salt, rock salt, garlic salt and table salt all have the same sodium content.

4. Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables

High blood pressure can be reduced by following a healthy eating plan that is high in fruit and vegetables. Adults should eat at least 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables every day. Buy lots of fruit and vegetables in a variety of colours. Fruits and vegetables have been significantly proven to help prevent diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

5. Drink alcohol in moderation

Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with high blood pressure. It can harm the liver, brain and heart. Many people find that their blood pressure improves when they decrease their alcohol consumption. Alcohol is measured in units. The recommendations for both men and women are shown below.

  • Men Maximum 17 units over 7 days
  • Women Maximum 11 units over 7 days

1 UNIT OF ALCOHOL:

  • ½ pint of beer
  • a small glass of wine (100ml)
  • 1 pub measure of spirits

6. Become more physically active

Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. It also helps to reduce your overall risk of heart disease. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. One way of achieving this is a 30 minute brisk walk 5 days per week.

Tips for being more active:

  • Use the stairs instead of an elevator.
  • Get off the bus one or two stops earlier.
  • Park your car at the far end of the car park.
  • Remember any activity that leaves you warm and slightly out of breath is good

7. Try to manage your stress

Anxiety and stress may raise your blood pressure in the short term. This is a normal response and healthy blood vessels can cope with these changes. However, if your blood pressure is raised for long periods of time due to stress, this will eventually damage the walls of your arteries.

Try to develop methods of coping with stress that you can practice anywhere, a way of “switching off” for 5-10 minutes. Relaxation exercises can help to release brain chemicals that act as your body’s natural brain tranquilizers, helping to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels.

Part 1. Blood Pressure and your body

Blood Pressure and your body

High blood pressure has many harmful effects on the body. It increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

By taking control of your blood pressure you can make a positive step towards reducing your overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Ireland has one of the highest incidence rates of Stroke and Coronary Artery Disease in Europe, with six in ten of all Irish adults having high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause silent damage to the blood vessels and the heart. If left untreated the damage may progress and result in a stroke or a heart attack.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries when the heart contracts. Everyone has blood pressure. While a certain amount of pressure is needed to keep the blood flowing, this pressure can increase if the blood meets resistance in the arteries. Blood flowing through the arteries at high pressure can damage artery walls. If this pressure is persistently high, this is called high blood pressure or “hypertension”.

High blood pressure is a sign that the heart and blood vessels are being overworked.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers

  • The “systolic” pressure is the pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart is beating.
  • The “diastolic” pressure is the pressure present in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure is expressed as the systolic pressure “over” the diastolic pressure. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 is expressed as “120 over 80”.

How do I know if I have High Blood Pressure?

A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high blood pressure. You may not know you have high blood pressure, as usually there are no warning signs or symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high, is to have it checked. Therefore, it is very important to have your blood pressure checked once a year

Initial assessment:

  • Having your blood pressure measured is quick and easy, and can be done by your doctor or nurse.
  • Blood pressure is measured using a special instrument called a sphygmomanometer. This involves a cuff being wrapped around your arm just above the elbow, which is then inflated. Automatic blood pressure monitors are commonly used. In these cases the blood pressure reading appears on a small screen.
  • Blood pressure is just one of the risk factors for heart disease or stroke, therefore your doctor may decide to do some extra blood and urine tests to identify other risk factors that you may have.

Repeat assessment:

Most doctors will diagnose a person with high blood pressure on the basis of a number of readings. However sometimes your GP may recommend 24 hour blood pressure monitoring. If so:

  • This monitor must be worn for 24 hours and will inflate and check your blood pressure every half hour.
  • Your blood pressure will vary at different times of the day depending on your activity levels, therefore it is important to carry out your normal daily activities while wearing the monitor.
  • This method of blood pressure monitoring is particularly good for patients who only experience high blood pressure when they visit the doctor’s surgery. This is called “white coat hypertension”. Blood pressure can rise when a person is nervous or anxious

Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home

Many people also like to monitor their blood pressure themselves using a home blood pressure monitor. The British & Irish Hypertension Society publishes the only independent, validated blood pressure monitors for home use, not governed by commercial interest. For a full list of validated blood pressure monitors, click here, or here is Croí’s short-list of recommended blood pressure monitors:

  • A&D UA-705: Upper Arm
  • A&D UA-704: Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Compact (HEM-7102-E): Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Basic (HEM-7116-E) (Derivative of M3-I (HEM-7051-E)): Upper Arm
  • Omron M7 (HEM-780-E): Upper Arm

What causes High Blood Pressure?

In the majority of people there is no single clear cause of high blood pressure. However, there are a number of factors that contribute to high blood pressure. These include:

  • Family history of high blood pressure.
  • Age (as you grow older, blood pressure tends to rise).
  • Being overweight.
  • A high intake of sodium (salt) in the diet.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • A high intake of alcohol.
  • Ethnic Origin: people from African-Caribbean and South Asian communities have a higher predisposition to developing high blood pressure.

In the remainder of people who don’t fit into the above category, high blood pressure can arise as a result of other diseases such as a kidney disease, disorders of the adrenal gland etc.

What should my Blood Pressure be?

It is very important to know the recommended target level for blood pressure.

Target Level Less than 140/90 mmHg*

If you have Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease, or if you have had a Stroke your doctor may prescribe a lower target level.

Croí Corrib Cycle Announces Exciting New Routes for 2021

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN FOR CROÍ!

Croí, the heart and stroke charity, has announced the return of its annual Croí Corrib Cycle with a special, limited-capacity ride-out taking place on Sunday, July 11.

Following last year’s cycle cancellation due to COVID-19, the hugely popular fundraising event is returning with an exciting new innovation for 2021 which will see the cycle starting and finishing in the picturesque village of Maam Cross. 2021 is the 27th year of the Croí Corrib Cycle and Croí is especially proud that Corrib Oil has been its primary sponsor during all of that time, since the very first ride-out in 1995.

With so many people eager to get out and see the world again, and with such a picturesque itinerary and a great cause to support, interest is expected to be intense this year. In line with COVID-19 guidelines, places will be limited to a maximum of 300 participants and start times will be staggered to allow for social distancing.

Participants are therefore being urged to sign up early to secure their spot on the start line in Maam Cross – simply visit www.croi.ie/cycle or contact fundraising@croi.ie

There will be two scenic routes to choose from – an 80km and a 110km option. Both routes will start and finish within the grounds of Peacockes Hotel in Maam Cross. The 80km route will take cyclists from Maam Cross, towards Leenane, along Loch na Fooey, towards Finny, Clonbur, Cornamona and finishing back in Maam Cross. The 110km route will take cyclists along a similar starting route before venturing to Toormakeady, Maumtrasna, Clonbur and returning to Maam Cross.

Ride On!
Christine Flanagan, Croí Fundraising Director, is thrilled to be hosting events in the real world once more:

“We are delighted that our first physical fundraising event of the year will be our cycle on July 11. This cycle is synonymous with Croí and we are really looking forward to getting people back safely on their bikes and on the roads around Maam Cross. All funds raised from this event are vitally important to us to ensure that we can continue our work at Croí, leading the fight against heart disease and stroke in the West of Ireland.”

Registration costs €150, of which €50 is to be paid upon registration. Participants then have the option to either fundraise the additional €100 or pay the full amount on registration. Roadside assistance, support vehicles, refreshment stops and post-cycle food will be provided on the day, with social distancing and safety precautions uppermost in mind. All registered cyclists will receive a specially-designed Croí cycle jersey, water bottle and face covering, as well as being entered into a raffle to win a fantastic cycling equipment package courtesy of West Side Cycles.

Register now at www.croi.ie/cycle

Advice for people managing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) at home

It is not clear why people with high blood pressure are at a higher risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19, so it is important to follow all the recommended advice on staying safe and take any heart medication your doctor has prescribed.

You have high blood pressure when your blood pressure readings are more than 140 over 90 consistently over several readings. When on treatment for high blood pressure the target for most people is to have a blood pressure below 130/80mmHg particularly if you have had a cardiac event or stroke; have other risk factors; or have diabetes.

High blood pressure is very common in Ireland and by taking control of your blood pressure you can make a positive step towards reducing your overall risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You can do this following the medical advice you are given by your doctor, having regular check-ups, taking your medication as prescribed and making positive lifestyle changes.

Many people also like to monitor their blood pressure themselves using a home blood pressure monitor. The British & Irish Hypertension Society publishes the only independent, validated blood pressure monitors for home use, not governed by commercial interest. For a full list of validated blood pressure monitors, click here, or here is Croí’s short-list of recommended blood pressure monitors:

  • A&D UA-705: Upper Arm
  • A&D UA-704: Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Compact (HEM-7102-E): Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Basic (HEM-7116-E) (Derivative of M3-I (HEM-7051-E)): Upper Arm
  • Omron M7 (HEM-780-E): Upper Arm

The following video outlines how to measure your blood pressure using a validated monitor to ensure it is recorded accurately.

For more information on High Blood Pressure, click here.

2021 FAQ Croí Corrib Cycle

Corrib Cycle - FAQ Webpage banner

What is the Croí Corrib Cycle?

The 2021 Croí Corrib Cycle is a fundraising event for Croí that will take place on Sunday July 11th. There are three routes on offer, 40km, 80km and 110km. Both routes start and finish at Peacockes in Maam Cross, Galway. (Google Map link) Registration is available here.

How should I fundraise?

We encourage cyclists to use iDonate to fundraise for this cycle in aid of Croí. Once you register for the cycle, you will receive a confirmation email which will then allow you to create your iDonate profile. This is a fundraising event and we are so grateful for all the support which helps us to continue our vital work in communities throughout the region.

If you have any queries in relation to this please contact lisa.croi@hse.ie. or contact us on 091 544310.

How much do I need to raise?

To confirm your place in the cycle, you must donate or fundraise at least €150 by June 18th.

When do I give my donation?

All donations and fundraising will be completed online, in advance of the cycle. There will be no money collected on the day.

What time does the event start?

The first group will leave Peacockes at 8am. You will be emailed details of your start time in advance of the event. You will also receive your wristband and face covering via post in advance of the event. Both items must be worn by all participants when they arrive at the start line. At check-in you can collect your jersey and water bottle.

  • Both routes start and finish at Peacockes, Maam Cross, Galway (Google Maps link ).

Please leave plenty of time to get to the event check-in as there will be a lot of traffic in the area.

When do I get my jersey and water bottle?

Jerseys and water bottles can be collected on the day at the cycle at Peacockes. Everybody who raises at least €150 will receive a Croí Corrib Cycle jersey, water bottle. You will receive a Croí face covering and wristband via post in advance of the cycle.

Can I get a refund?

There are no refunds – donations and fundraising is viewed as a charitable donation.

Will there be bike repair on the routes?

Please ensure your bike is checked before departure. Pump your wheels and ensure you have spare tubes for your wheels. Bike mechanics are available on the routes.

Where can I park my car?

There will be adequate parking in place at Peacockes. Please allow extra time to get parking and event registration. It will be busy. Please do not park illegally.

Where do the routes go?

40KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross, heading northwest towards Leenaun and turning back again towards Maam Cross. 40KM google map.

80KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross, heading Northwest, towards Leenaun and turning right where you will cycle along Loch na Fooey, towards Finny. You will then continue onto Clonbur and turn back towards Cornamona (before Cong) and finish at Maam Cross. Click the link to see the route. 80KM google map.

110KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross and head Northwest to Leenaun, then turning right and taking you over ‘Lally’s’. From there you will descend into Toormakeady, travelling down Maumtrasna (looking out on Lough Mask) towards Finny and cycling along Lough na Fooey. You will continue on to Clonbur and turn back towards Cornamona (before Cong) and finish at Maam Cross. Click the link to see the route. 110KM google map

Do rules of the road apply?

YES.  This is not a closed road event and you must adhere to the normal rules of the road.

  • Cycling on the route is maximum of two abreast.
  • The event is not a race and you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of others on the road.
  • Croí directional signs will be placed along the route and marshals will also be present. Please remember, marshals are only there to assist. You must check for oncoming traffic at all junctions.
  • All participants will be provided with an emergency contact number in the case of an emergency on the route. Please note, this is not a number for bike repairs.
  • Please ensure you have spare tubes in the event of a puncture and do not rely on the emergency number for help with changing punctures etc.
  • No earphones permitted.

What happens after the event?

There will be hot food, tea and coffee available for all participants. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, large groups of people will not be permitted to congregate at the finish line. We ask all people to act responsibly and respect others’ personal space.

Are there showers at the finish line?

No showers are available.

Are there toilets on the routes?

No additional toilets on route. Due to COVID-19, toilets in petrol stations may not be available. Toilets will be available at Peacockes.

What if I need first aid?

Irish Red Cross ambulances will be on all routes. Should you require assistance, please call emergency number on your final confirmation email. In case of an emergency, dial 999 for ambulance and then call emergency event number.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

Yes, bring the following:

  • Helmet
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Puncture repair kit and spare tubes
  • Mobile Phone with credit
  • Snacks
  • Sunblock
  • Rain jacket
  • Emergency money and ID

Are the routes well sign-posted?

Yes, there will be Croí directional signage on all routes, including marshals to support you. Remember rules of the road apply.

Is the jersey unisex?

Yes, and typically the jerseys are tight fitting.

Anything else?

Yes, please respect the volunteers, marshals and medics on the route they are there for your safety. Please bring your rubbish with you to the next refreshment stop if snacking on the route.

Enjoy the ride!

For any additional information please contact Christine on 091 544310 or email christine.croi@hse.ie

Croí Marks World Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Day with Free Webinar

Are you, or a loved one, living with high blood pressure? Join Croí, the Heart & Stroke Charity, and leading experts for a public webinar to learn how to manage your high blood pressure. The free webinar takes places online using Zoom on Thursday, May 20th, from 1 – 2pm.

Expert guest speakers on the day include Prof Bill McEvoy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Galway; Dr Barry McDonnell, Cardiovascular Physiologist, Cardiff Metropolitan University; and Dr Gerry Molloy, Health Psychologist, NUI Galway. The interactive panel discussion will address your priorities and concerns for living with high blood pressure. This event is in recognition of World Hypertension Day (May 17th).

Register now and submit your questions for the experts at www.croi.ie/webinar, or call Croí on 091-544310. Don’t miss this special event!

“Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s startling to know that Ireland has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure internationally, but among the lowest levels of diagnosis, treatment and control of the condition. Join us and connect with the experts at this free Croí webinar,” says Dr Lisa Hynes, Croí’s Head of Health Programmes.

The programme is funded by the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019, under Grant Agreement Number 121 to support the delivery of services which focus on prevention, community care and integration of care across all health and social care settings.

Five Things You Should Know in Taking Control of Your Blood Pressure

  1. Be informed. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, happens when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is too high. Left untreated, it can significantly increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
  2. Get checked out. Known as a silent killer, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So, the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked out.
  3. Know your pressure. You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. The recommended target level for blood pressure is <140/90 mmHg, however, if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or have previously had a stroke, you may be prescribed a lower target.
  4. Minimise the risks. There are steps you can take to lower blood pressure, by maintaining a healthy weight and becoming more physically active, stopping smoking, avoiding added salt, drinking alcohol in moderation, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, and learning ways to cope with stress.
  5. You can be treated. If lifestyle measures on their own are not effective in keeping your blood pressure under control, then you may need to take prescribed medications in addition. These are usually for the rest of your life.

Croí Marks World Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Day in Mayo

The Croí Third Age Mayo project, which aims to promote healthy cardiovascular ageing, will mark World Hypertension Day (May 17) with a free public webinar with expert speakers discussing how participants can manage their high blood pressure. The webinar will take place lunchtime on Thursday, May 20 from 1-2 pm with expert speakers including, Prof Bill McEvoy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Galway; Dr Barry McDonnell, Cardiovascular Physiologist, Cardiff Metropolitan University; and Dr Gerry Molloy, Health Psychologist, NUI Galway. Register for free here.

In a separate initiative from May 17, Croí Third Age Mayo will partner with ten local pharmacies as part of a blood pressure measurement pilot programme. This initiative will see free blood pressure checks offered throughout the week to people over 55 years of age who have not had their blood pressure checked in the past year. Members of the public found to have high blood pressure will be offered advice and information, as well as the opportunity to take part in a free blood pressure management programme, delivered by the Croí multi-disciplinary health team.

The pharmacies participating in the pilot programme are Molloy’s Pharmacy in BallinaCrossmolina, Ballaghaderreen and Achill, Treacy’s Pharmacy in Castlebar, Westport and Ballinrobe, and O’Donnell’s Pharmacy and McVann’s Pharmacy in Westport.

People over 55 years of age interested in a free blood pressure check can simply contact one of the participating pharmacies to book an appointment, which are subject to availability. Further information on Croí Third Age Mayo, and this pilot programme, can be found at croi.ie/third-age-mayo-bp. The blood pressure measurement programme will expand to include more pharmacies in the county with further checks to be held later in the year.

High Rates of High BP

Mayo is among the counties in Ireland with the highest proportion of people over 55 years of age, having almost a third of the population in this age category. Between 30-40% of people in Ireland are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Ireland has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure internationally, but among the lowest levels of diagnosis, treatment and control of the condition.

For Croí Chief Executive, Neil Johnson, this initiative marks the beginning of a county-wide effort to improve our cardiovascular health: “One of the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been reduced access to routine health checks, with implications for delayed detection and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure. We are delighted therefore to announce this pilot initiative marking World Hypertension Day. Starting with a pilot among these ten pharmacies, our aim is to then spread the blood pressure message far and wide across the county of Mayo in the coming months with other blood pressure management events.”

Own it. Check it. Sort it.

Five Things You Should Know in Taking Control of Your Blood Pressure.

  1. Be informed. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, happens when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is too high. Left untreated, it can significantly increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
  2. Get checked out. Known as a silent killer, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So, the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked out.
  3. Know your pressure. If over 55 years, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. The recommended target level for blood pressure is <140/90 mmHg, however, if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or have previously had a stroke, you may be prescribed a lower target.
  4. Minimise the risks. There are steps you can take to lower blood pressure, by maintaining a healthy weight and becoming more physically active, stopping smoking, avoiding added salt, drinking alcohol in moderation, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, and learning ways to cope with stress.
  5. You can be treated. If lifestyle measures on their own are not effective in keeping your blood pressure under control, then you may need to take prescribed medications in addition. These are usually for the rest of your life.