What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
- ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
Risks of high blood pressure
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.
Check your blood pressure
The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.
You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
- at your GP surgery
- at some pharmacies
You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.
Things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure
It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk.
You might be more at risk if you:
- are overweight
- eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
- do not do enough exercise
- drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
- do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
- are over 65
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.
Treatment for high blood pressure
Doctors can help you keep your blood pressure to a safe level using:
- lifestyle changes
What works best is different for each person.
Talk to your doctor to help you decide about treatment option.
Lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure
These lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:
- reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
- cut back on alcohol
- lose weight if you’re overweight
- exercise regularly
- cut down on caffeine
- stop smoking
Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take 1 or more medicines to stop their blood pressure getting too high.