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Salt and blood pressure

What is blood pressure?

When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of the blood puching on the blood vessels is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries and your heart, and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

What is high blood pressure?

Hig blood pressure has no symptoms and so it is hard to tell if you have high blood pressure without having your blood pressure measured by your GP.

Blood pressure is measured as millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is written as two numbers e.g. 120/80 mmHg. The first number is your systolic blood pressure. It is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.

Ideally we should all have a blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg or less. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 14/90 mmHg then you should take steps to lower it, including eating less salt, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat and getting more exercise.

A blood pressure of greater than 140/90 mmHg is high. This level of pressure puts extra strain on your blood vessels and heart which over time puts you at an increased risk of having a stroe or a heart attack.  

What can lead to high blood pressure?

  • Being overweight 
  • Not getting enough physical exercise
  • Eating too much salt
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Evidence that relates salt to blood pressure

A large number of studies have been carried out, all of which support the concept that eating too much salt, over time, can lead to raised blood pressure. The evidence that links salt to blood pressure is as strong as that linking cigarette smoking to cancer and heart disease. For more information on the research linking salt and blood pressure, please visit our Health Professionals section.

For more information on blood pressure, visit the Blood Pressure UK website http://www.bloodpressureuk.org

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