High blood pressure: An expert says certain Christmas activities can raise it
High blood pressure – or hypertension – is on the rise in the UK thanks to unhealthy lifestyles – and the festive season could cause it to spike.
According to Blood Pressure UK, one in three adults has high blood pressure, and certain Christmas activities may exacerbate it.
In the long term it could cause coronary heart disease, heart attack, kidney disease, heart failure and stroke.
However, many people don’t know they have it – there are an estimated seven million in the UK who are undiagnosed – since it doesn’t always show symptoms and is often only spotted during routine tests for something else.
If you already have high blood pressure it could be a good idea to avoid high-pressure activities at Christmas
Signs if they do appear include severe headache, confusion, chest pain, fatigue and difficulty breathing.
These are all the effects the Christmas season could have on your blood pressure levels this December:
Work Christmas party
The effect of socialising with your colleagues on your blood pressure could go either way, said Dr Clare Morrison, a GP at online pharmacy and doctor service MedExpress.
“If you are already stressed, don’t get on with your colleagues or boss, and feel you suffer from what’s been called ‘the tyranny of forced fun at work’, it’s not exactly going to help your blood pressure,” she explained.
“However, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a given that it’s going to have a negative effect – even if you are already suffering from obesity or a heart conditions that causes you to have high blood pressure.
“In fact, in the short-term eating and drinking can lower your blood pressure!
“Remember that if you’re on tablets to relieve high blood pressure you need to be careful about drinking too much.”
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High blood pressure: Time spent with loved ones should lower it
The stress of finding the right gifts at the right price in time for Christmas day could be too much for your blood pressure if you already suffer.
“It is all about context,” said Dr Morrison.
“If you already have high blood pressure, are hugely stressed and find life overwhelming, it could be a very good idea to avoid high-pressure activities.”
She suggested sending someone else to do it for you, or to order all of your gifts online at a relaxed pace, a long time in advance.
The combination of turkey and all the trimmings, mince pies and chocolate has a surprising effect on your blood pressure, revealed Dr Morrison.
“Christmas dinner is packed with high calorie food – the average person in the UK consumes around 7,000 calories,” she noted.
“This is far higher than the recommended daily calorie allowance – which is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.”
Lots of high-calorie food has different effects on your blood pressure in the short and long term.
“One cause of high blood pressure is a bad diet – so if you’re already eating unhealthily, the Christmas dinner could push your blood pressure up in the long-term,” she explained.
“However, in the short-term it could lower your blood pressure, as your stomach ends up doing the work rather than your heart.”
High blood pressure: Sufferers should beware stressful activities like Christmas shopping
Spending time with loved ones should in theory have a relaxing and therefore blood pressure-lowering effect on your body.
However, Dr Morrison warned this could depend largely on your relatives.
“In theory your blood pressure should lower, however if you are surrounded by negative family members, this could have the opposite effect,” she explained.
“Family disagreements can be stressful, that’s for sure. However, this is only likely to affect your blood pressure if you already suffer from high blood pressure.”
Whatever the number of days you have off, it is likely you will spend them glued to the sofa watching an assortment of festive television.
“A lack of physical activity increases the risk of being overweight,” warned Dr Morrison.
“The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
“The higher your heart rate the harder your heart has to work – hence blood pressure can increase.”
High blood pressure: Beware mixing medications and alcohol over Christmas
Just like Christmas shopping, elbowing other shoppers out the way for a bargain is unlikely to help your blood pressure reading if you already have hypertension.
“Sales shopping is unlikely to be relaxing,” warned Dr Morrison.
“If you are already suffering from high blood pressure, probably best to avoid this – unless done online in a relaxed environment at home.”
New Year’s Eve celebrations
When the clocks strike midnight you are unlikely to be without a glass of fizz in your hand, however alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your blood pressure.
“Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels,” explained Dr Morrison.
“Keep drinking to a minimum – if at all – and drink in moderation – don’t give in to pressure.
“But if you are taking tablets for hypertension, it’s best to completely avoid drinking.”