Written by: Kevin White
High blood pressure is known as the ‘silent killer’ and it rarely has symptoms. In England 30% of people have high blood pressure and the majority don’t know they have it. Heart attacks and strokes can occur if it is left untreated and it is recommended that adults should have their blood pressure monitored every five years – ask your GP to check yours if you are not sure when you last had it checked.
What is blood pressure and how is it measured?
Blood pressure is measured by how strongly the blood presses against the walls of your arteries as it is pumped around your body by your heart. When the pressure is too high, it puts strain on your arteries and your heart and this can make you more likely to suffer from a heart attack, kidney disease or a stroke.
Your blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury or mmHg and is recorded in two figures:
- systolic pressure – this is the pressure of your blood when the heart beats to pump blood out
- diastolic pressure – this is the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between each beat
A high blood pressure reading (also known as hypertension), is when separate readings show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher. Readings below 130/80mmHg are considered normal.
The chances of having high blood pressure increases as you age
The may be no clear cause as to why you have high blood pressure, you may be at higher risk if you:
- are overweight
- have a family member with high blood pressure
- are eating a lot of salt
- are not eating enough fruit and veg
- are lacking exercise
- drink a lot of caffeine-based drinks such as coffee
- drink a large amount of alcohol
- are aged over 65
Making little lifestyle changes
You can reduce your risk of developing it by:
- exercising regularly
- eating healthily
- quitting smoking
- cut back on the alcohol
- lose weight if you need to
- cut back on salt and caffeine
When you have been assessed by your GP and they found that you have high blood pressure, you will be closely monitored until it’s brought under control. Your GP will suggest lifestyle changes and may even prescribe medication to achieve this.