Know Your Numbers Week (Blood Pressure UK) 2019
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
More than 1 in 4 adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
They're both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you're over the age of 80)
ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
Everyone's blood pressure will be slightly different. What's considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.
Risks of high blood pressure
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:
peripheral arterial disease
If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.
Check your blood pressure
The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.
All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every 5 years.
Getting this done is easy and could save your life.
You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
at your GP surgery
at some pharmacies
as part of your NHS Health Check
in some workplaces
You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.
Causes of high blood pressure
It's not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but certain things can increase your risk.
You're at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you:
are over the age of 65
are of African or Caribbean descent
have a relative with high blood pressure
eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
do not do enough exercise
drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
Making healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it's already high.
Reduce your blood pressure
The following lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:
reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
cut back on alcohol
lose weight if you're overweight
cut down on caffeine
try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night
Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take 1 or more medicines to stop their blood pressure getting too high.