High blood pressure means it’s consistently higher than the recommended level. It’s not something you can usually feel or notice but over time if it is not treated, your heart may become enlarged making your heart pump less effectively. It’s estimated 7 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, without knowing they are at risk. High blood pressure (hypertension) is dangerous because it contributes to hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, stroke, kidney disease, and to the development of heart failure.
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood round your body and everyone over the age of 40 should know their blood pressure, so be sure to have it measured. The pressure of the blood flowing through your arteries changes as your heart beats. The systolic blood pressure will be at its highest, for example it might be 130mmHg, when your heart is contracting and pumping blood around your body. Your diastolic blood pressure will be at its lowest, for example 75mmHg, as it relaxes while it fills with blood before pumping again.
According to the NHS if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home) but your risk of other problems is low – you’ll be advised to make some changes to your lifestyle.
If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home) and your risk of other problems is high – you’ll be offered medication to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes. And if your blood pressure is consistently above 160/100mmHg – you’ll be offered medication to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes.
Making lifestyle changes can often help to reduce high blood pressure although some people may also be advised by their GP to take medication, depending on your blood pressure reading and your risk of developing problems. But making changes early on may help you to avoid needing medication and these simple lifestyle changes include:
• Being more active
• losing weight
• stopping smoking
• cutting your salt intake to less than 6g (0.2oz) a day
• eating a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
• cutting down on alcohol
• drinking less caffeine – found in coffee, tea and cola
• getting at least six hours of sleep a night if possible