More than 1 in 4 adults in the UK have high blood pressure (or hypertension; which is the medical term), although many will not realise it. That's up to 7 million people in the UK who have high blood pressure and don't know it.
High blood pressure, rarely has noticeable symptoms so the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have yours measured. If untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
To find out more about the causes and risks of high blood pressure, and how to reduce it, click here or read the sections below.
Your heart pumps blood around your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your organs. Your blood pressure is the force your heart uses to pump blood around your body through the arteries. Blood pressure is the measurement of force applied to artery walls.
You need some force to be applied to the arteries to keep your blood moving. Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down, and it's fine for it to go up while you're moving about. It's when your overall blood pressure is always high, even when you are resting, that you need to do something about it.
Here you will find information from Blood Pressure UK on how to take your blood pressure at home.
Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers.
The first is when the pressure is at it's highest (systolic) and this is when your heart contracts to pump blood through your arteries.
The second is whilst it's at the lowest (diastolic) and this is when your heart relaxes between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and usualy when a reading is given you'll be told something like "120 over 80" (systolic pressure over diastolic pressure).
Ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
Pre-High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure readings between 121/81mmHg and 139/89mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
High Blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or higher.
Low blood pressure is a measurement of 89/59mmHg or lower.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure test results, the best thing to do is to visit your GP to get it double checked and talk about any queries you may have.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. It means your blood pressure is always too high.
High blood pressure is serious and if you ignore it, it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, heart failure and problems with your sight.
High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body, so the pressure is always higher than it should be. Your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood to your organs) are stretchy to cope with your blood pressure going up and down. If you have high blood pressure, your arteries lose their stretchiness and become stiff and narrow.
The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material to clog them up. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.
Non-modifiable Risk factors (things you can't change)
- Age: Being over the age of 65 increases your risk of high blood pressure.
- Ethnic Origin: People from African or Caribbean descent and South Asian communities are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
- Family History: You are at greater risk if other members in your family have high blood pressure or have had in the past.
Modifiable Risk Factors (things you could change)
- Being overweight/ obese
- Eating too much salt
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Not doing enough exercise
- Drinking too much Alcohol
- Drinking too much Caffeine
- Not getting enough sleep
A phenomenon in which people exhibit a blood pressure level above their normal range, in a clinical setting, though they do not exhibit it in other settings. It is believed that the phenomenon is due to anxiety experienced during a clinic visit.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Breathing exercises and meditation can help.
- Request a quiet room: Ask for an exam room away from all the flurry in the doctor's office, if possible.
- Take a moment before the reading: Take a few deep breaths before the blood pressure reading to help calm nerves.
If you have white coat hypertension, talk to your doctor about home monitoring of your condition, blood pressure monitors can be purchased and used at home. Here you will find information on choosing a blood pressure monitor
Your doctor may ask you to wear a blood pressure monitor (ambulatory blood pressure monitor) for up to 24 hours to track your blood pressure during the daytime as well as while you sleep. This can help determine if your high blood pressure only occurs in the doctor's office or if it's a persistent condition that needs treatment.
Here you will find more information on White Coat Syndrome.
High blood pressure (hypertension), with advice from your GP, can be treated by changing lifestyle factors and/or through medication. In fact, by making these lifestyle changes early on, you may be able to avoid needing medicines.
Trying simple swaps such as switching from crisps, chocolates, sweets to healthier snacks such as fruit, unsalted nuts or popcorn.
Instead of adding salt to your food, you can add pepper, herbs or spices.
When drinking alcohol, you could switch from a full pint of beer to a half pint.
To increase physical activity levels, you can take the stairs rather than the lift and briskly walk to places instead of taking a leisurely stroll.
- Cut your salt intake to less than 6g (0.2oz) a day, which is about a teaspoonful. For more information on salt click here.
- eat a low-fat, balanced diet – including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Get tips on eating well here.
- Be more physically active, read tips here on how to be more active.
- Cut down on alcohol, find out more here.
- Lose weight – find out what your ideal weight is using the BMI healthy weight calculator. Read advice about losing weight here.
- Drink less caffeine which is found in coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks.
- Stop Smoking: for more information about being smoke free click here.
- Get at least 6 hours of sleep a night – read some tips for getting to sleep here.
- Reduce your stress levels, find out more here.
Long term high blood pressure can increase your risk for serious and life-threatening health conditions such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
Low Blood Pressure (hypotension)
For more information about low blood pressure, follow the link here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-pressure-hypotension/
See your GP if you have low blood pressure and keep getting symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, feeling faint or weak.