As the blood circulates around the body, it is under pressure. The blood pressure is a result of the pumping action of the heart and the resistance of the vessels, through which the blood flows.
When blood pressure is high it puts an unnecessary strain on the heart and blood vessels.
Blood pressure may rise temporarily due to exercise, excitement, anger or anxiety making your heart beat faster.
What is normal blood pressure?
Your blood pressure levels will vary during the day and will normally be highest around lunchtime or after exercise and lowest when you are resting or sleeping. Blood pressure is quoted as 2 numbers, the first number known as systolic pressure, is the blood pressure during each heartbeat. The second, known as diastolic, is the blood pressure between beats.
The latest guideline from NHS UK defines blood pressure between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg as normal. 140/90mmHg is the level used to diagnose high blood pressure and a reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you are at risk of developing high blood pressure. If your blood pressure reading is consistently 140/90mmHg or above, the latest guideline from the British Hypertension Society (2011, updated 2016) suggests your GP must send you for further monitoring to confirm hypertension and test for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and organ damage. Any reading higher than 180/110mmHg, the patient must be referred to a specialist the same day.
What causes blood pressure to be high?
Anyone can develop high blood pressure and it doesn’t always have an obvious cause. If you have persistent high blood pressure, the condition is called hypertension.
High blood pressure tends to run in families. Blood pressure will also increase, as you get older. This may be why heart attacks are more common in older people. In a few cases high blood pressure can be related to another medical condition.
There are many other elements that contribute to high blood pressure that can be avoided, such as being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise and a poor diet.
How can I tell if I have high blood pressure?
You may feel perfectly well, as high blood pressure usually causes no symptoms and generally will go undiscovered until a doctor happens to take your blood pressure. If you have very high blood pressure you may experience dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and possible breathlessness. The only way you can tell for sure if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured by your doctor, or purchase one of the many blood pressure monitors that are available from most pharmacies.
What are the dangers of having high blood pressure?
High blood pressure in itself is not a disease, but it can cause serious health problems such as, heart disease and strokes. You are also more likely to suffer from kidney damage or failure.
How can I reduce the risk of high blood pressure?
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent high blood pressure. For a healthy lifestyle you should cut down on salt intake and watch your weight, find a weight that is right for you and try to stick to it. You should also give up smoking, drink less alcohol, eat a balanced healthy diet and get regular exercise.
If these measures are not successful in lowering blood pressure, then there is a wide range of drugs available to treat high blood pressure. Your doctor will help you decide what treatment is right for you. Some women experience high blood pressure because of the contraceptive pill, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure if you are on the pill. High blood pressure can also occur during pregnancy and usually returns to normal after the birth, always consult your doctor if you are worried.