High blood pressure
Your heart is constantly pumping blood into the arteries and throughout the body. The word ‘pressure’ means the force in which the blood is being pumped in to the arteries, if this is too high it can put extra strain on your heart and blood vessels which is ultimately high blood pressure.
Known also as the ‘silent killer’ having high blood pressure is a serious condition that does not always carry symptoms and many people do not know they have.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). There are 2 significant numbers in which blood pressure is recorded. The systolic pressure (higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower number). The systolic pressure is when the heart pumps the blood around the body and the diastolic pressure measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart rests between beats.
A normal blood pressure reading would look like this: 90/60 mmHg. High blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher.
It’s normal for your blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. It may go up if you are doing any physical activities or down when you are resting. When blood pressure remains high all throughout the day, even when resting, may be a cause for major concern and it’s dangerous to ignore it.
Risks and causes
The most common cause for hypertension is lifestyle, more specific factors are:
- Older age
- Being overweight
- Too much salt in diet
- Not enough exercise
- High smoking, alcohol or caffeine intake
- Unhealthy diet
Just making some simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of your blood pressure rising and help you maintain a healthy level. Even-though the lifestyle causes listed are significant factors for developing high blood pressure, it is not yet known what exactly causes high blood pressure.
If you do have high blood pressure then you could be at risk of:
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Aortic aneurysms
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure can stop you from developing a potentially life-threatening health condition.
- There are often no signs or symptoms of hypertension and it is only captured when your blood pressure is taken by a doctor. Because blood pressure can go up and down throughout the day, your doctor will take a number of readings on different occasions to diagnose high blood pressure.
- NHS guidelines advise people ages 40 and over to have their blood pressure checked at least every 5 years. It is easy to have your blood pressure checked and only takes a couple of minutes. You can have it checked at your GP office, pharmacy, workplaces and health centres.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure you will be asked to make some lifestyle changes that could be contributing to the condition. Changes like a healthier diet and exercise will make a huge difference.
Medications can also be recommended to help keep it under control. Drugs like ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-2 receptor blockers and diuretics can all aid in the control of high blood pressure and your doctor will choose one best suited for you.
It’s important to keep an eye on your health and to remember, even if you don’t see of feel it doesn’t mean it’s not there. As you get older, be mindful about the lifestyle choices you are making and make sure you are taking time to visit your GP or health centre at least once a year for a general check-up.