Healthly LIVING

Hypertension – high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common condition, affecting around one in three adults in England…

… however, it is estimated that 18% of adult men and 13% of adult women have high blood pressure but are not getting treatment for it.

The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age. Half of people over 75 years have the condition.

For reasons that are not fully understood, people of Afro-Caribbean origin are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other ethnic groups.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries (blood vessels). Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Your blood pressure is recorded as two figures.

The top (first) number is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts.

The bottom (second) number is the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each heartbeat.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is a sustained blood pressure that is greater than 140/90 mmHg.

High blood pressure often causes no symptoms, or immediate problems, but it is a major risk factor for developing other conditions such as a stroke or heart disease.

If you have high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Over time, this can weaken it. The increased pressure can also damage the walls of your arteries, resulting in a blockage or causing the artery to split (haemorrhage). Both of these situations can cause a stroke.

In most cases, there is no single reason for a rise in blood pressure but evidence shows that lifestyle can play a significant role in regulating your blood pressure.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • age
  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise
  • being overweight
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes and kidney disease are also linked to high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can be treated or prevented by making changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a healthier diet, exercising more regularly, and reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink.

Medication that can help you lower your blood pressure is also available.

Who should have a blood pressure check?

Most people will not know if they have high blood pressure unless they have it checked. We’d recommend everyone should have regular blood pressure checks at least every 3 years. The check should be more often (at least once a year) in: older people, people who have had a previous high reading, people with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or take regular pain killers.

At HBS Pharmacy our health professionals will test your blood pressure by using a cuff that fits around your upper arm and is then inflated so that it becomes tight. The test is quick and painless, and the vast majority of people will have experienced it before.

You may be referred to your GP or other health professional if that this is appropriate: for example, if your blood pressure test reveals a raised blood pressure.

Lowering your blood pressure

Lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure include:

  • Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes a day, a minimum of five times a week.
  • Losing weight if you are overweight.
  • Cutting your alcohol intake to recommended levels (less than 21 units a week for men, and less than 14 units a week for women).
  • Eating a healthy, low-fat, balanced diet.
  • Restricting your salt intake to less than 6g (0.2oz) a day.
  • Relaxation therapies, and reducing stress.