High blood pressure or hypertension is often an underlying condition, closely associated with serious health issues such as heart attacks (click here for article on heart attacks) and strokes (click here for our article on strokes)
It affects an estimated 17 million people in the UK. This article aims to explain exactly what high blood pressure is and what causes it. Additionally, this article explores how to reduce high blood pressure, and consequently reduce the risk of having a stroke.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure measures how forcefully your blood presses against the walls of your arteries as it is pumped around your body. When this pressure remains continually above normal levels this is known as high blood pressure (or hypertension).
Who suffers from it?
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t be aware of it. This condition can affect anyone. Stress, lifestyle choices, genetic predisposition, the combined contraceptive pill, pregnancy, old age, diabetes and atherosclerosis are among many things that can increase blood pressure.
Why does high blood pressure increase your risk of stroke?
High blood pressure puts all the body’s blood vessels under strain. This includes those leading to the brain. Being under strain makes it more likely a blood vessel in the brain could weaken and bleed or develop a blockage. Both of these could cause a stroke.
What are the other health dangers of high blood pressure?
If blood pressure is too high, it not only puts extra strain on the blood vessels, but also on the heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes. Therefore, left untreated high blood pressure can increase the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks and heart failure
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
- peripheral arterial disease
However, the good news is if you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these conditions.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have it checked.
How you can test for it?
The only way of confirming whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test. This can be done by your GP or by a nurse. All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. Furthermore, getting this done is easy and could save your life. Women on the contraceptive pill should have their blood pressure checked every 3-6 months.
Where you can have your blood pressure tested?
- at your GP Practice
- at some chemists
- as part of your NHS Health Check
- in some workplaces
- at home with a home blood pressure monitor
How it works?
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure is the force your heart pumps blood around your body. This is the higher number.
The diastolic pressure is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels when the heart is more relaxed. This is the lower number and is often considered the most important.
Both numbers are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
high blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or higher
low blood pressure is 90/60mmHg or lower
ideal blood pressure is somewhere between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
In the risk zone:
Even a slightly raised blood pressure above 120/80 to 140/90mmHg could be an indicator that your blood pressure is not totally under control and a warning sign to start taking steps to get the blood pressure lowered and more under control.
You’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you are:
- over the age of 65
- overweight or obese
- of African or Caribbean descent (there is a genetic element for everyone
- have a relative with high blood pressure
Lifestyle factors which can increase your risk of high blood pressure include:
- eating too much salt
- not eating enough fruit and vegetables
- not doing enough exercise
- drinking too much alcohol
- drinking too much coffee or other caffeine-based drinks
- getting too little sleep or very disturbed sleep
Positive change is possible
Most importantly, it is possible to reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure, or lowering your blood pressure if it is already high, by making healthy lifestyle changes.
It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical or online first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Click here or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information.