High blood pressure (hypertension)

Blood Pressure

If left unchecked, high blood pressure, or hypertension, can raise the risk of serious medical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. And for most, there are no signs that you have high blood pressure.

That’s why is is important for adults in the UK to have regular checks so they can know if their blood pressure is within a healthy range.

Having your blood pressure checked regularly will help you to make sure it stays within a healthy range, so that you can keep yourself safe from the potential risks associated with high blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?


Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it moves through them.

It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), and it is expressed in two numbers: systolic (the higher number) and diastolic (the lower number).

Systolic pressure is the amount of force exerted on artery walls when your heart pumps out blood during contraction.

Diastolic pressure is the amount of force exerted on artery walls between heartbeats, when your heart is relaxed and filling with blood.


What should my blood pressure be?


Normal adult human blood pressure ranges from 90/60 to 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

When either one or both numbers are above those values, a person has high blood pressure - also known as hypertension - which can put them at greater risk for health problems such as stroke, heart disease, and heart attack.

Low blood pressure - also known as hypotension - may cause dizziness, fatigue, or fainting if not corrected quickly.


How can you check your blood pressure?


Getting your blood pressure checked tells you if your blood pressure level is healthy quickly, easily, and painlessly.

The best way to check your blood pressure is to visit your doctor’s office and get your blood pressure taken by a trained medical professional. This will ensure that the readings are accurate and consistent each time you go in for a check-up.

You can also get your blood pressure checked in the majority of pharmacies for free.

Blood pressure can be measured by a variety of different devices. The most accurate way to test your blood pressure is by using a device known as a sphygmomanometer. This has an cuff that goes around your arm, and inflates until it feels tight as it measures your blood pressure.

It works by reading the measurements from sensors in the arm cuff, which are sent to a digital display, and gives you the results straight away.

It is important to relax and not to talk while you are having your blood pressure measured.


Testing your blood pressure at home


If you need to test your blood pressure regularly, it may be worth considering buying your own device to use at home. Blood pressure machines typically cost around £20, and can be bought in a pharmacy or online.

There are two types of blood pressure machines you might use at home - a manual sphygmomanometer or a digital automatic sphygmomanometer.

The manual device will require assistance from someone else, while the digital version requires no help - it does all the work for you by simply wrapping around the arm and providing an accurate measurement of systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Both devices come in different shapes and sizes designed to fit any arm size. It's important that you choose one that fits as snugly as possible on your forearm; if it's not tight enough it may give inaccurate readings.

You can also purchase electronic wrist monitors which don't require inflation of a cuff but still provide relatively accurate readings - these are particularly useful if you find inflating the cuff too uncomfortable or difficult due to mobility issues. The downside is that these readings may take longer than those obtained using traditional methods and should be checked for accuracy by consulting with your doctor prior to use for medical purposes.

Finally, there are smartphone apps which provide basic BP measurements when connected to specialised cuffs via Bluetooth connection – much like connecting headphones to smartphones.

However do bear in mind that such readings should be confirmed by visiting medical professionals if being used for medical diagnosis purposes since results can vary widely from person-to-person depending on positioning and other factors, so accuracy levels may be slightly lower than the other methods of measurement outlined above.


Risks of high blood pressure


High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can lead to an increased risk of a number of serious conditions, including:


How can you reduce your blood pressure?


One of the most effective strategies for reducing your blood pressure is to make lifestyle modifications, such as eating a healthy and balanced diet.

Eating foods with low sodium content can help reduce blood pressure, as high salt intake is linked to hypertension.

Getting regular exercise can also be beneficial in helping you lower your blood pressure; aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

It's also important to maintain a healthy weight. Those who are overweight or obese may have an increased risk of high blood pressure so it's important to work on maintaining a BMI within a healthy range.

Reducing stress levels can help too, as stress hormones such as cortisol elevate when we're anxious or overwhelmed and this leads to higher blood pressure readings.

You should also consider limiting your alcohol consumption as well and try avoiding smoking entirely; both cigarettes and secondhand smoke contain nicotine which contributes significantly towards raising our heart rate and consequently raises our BP levels too.

Lastly, be sure that you're taking any medication prescribed by your doctor exactly as instructed - proper treatment control is key in managing hypertension effectively.


What treatment is available for high blood pressure (hypertension)?


As well as the lifestyle changes above, if you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend taking medicines to keep it under control.

These come as tablets and usually need to be taken once a day.

Common blood pressure medicines include:

  • ACE inhibitors – such as enalapril, lisinopril, perindopril and ramipril

  • Angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs) – such as candesartan, irbesartan, losartan, valsartan and olmesartan

  • Calcium channel blockers – such as amlodipine, felodipine and nifedipine or diltiazem and verapamil diuretics – such as indapamide and bendroflumethiazide

  • Beta blockers – such as atenolol and bisoprolol

  • Alpha blockers – such as doxazosin

  • Other diuretics – such as amiloride and spironolactone

The medicine recommended for you will depend on things like how high your blood pressure is, your age and your ethnicity. If you are concerned about your blood pressure, it’s important to speak to your GP.


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