A quarter of all UK adults have high blood pressure, and it’s vitally important for you to know if you’re one of those four. If you’ve had at least two readings of 140/90, you might have high blood pressure and should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Persistent high blood pressure is the first step on the road to having a heart attack or stroke. Even worse, high blood pressure, the colloquial term for hypertension, rarely has any symptoms, which is why it’s known as the “silent killer”.
Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
What is blood pressure?
According to the NHS, blood pressure is the “measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body”. In other words, blood pressure is the pressure of the blood moving through your large arteries, much like water pressure is the pressure of the water moving through water pipes.
Why your blood pressure matters
Blood pressure is considered a vital sign (along with temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate) because it provides a window into the health of an individual. When your blood pressure is too low, your organs don’t get enough blood to function properly. When your blood pressure is too high, your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through your blood vessels.
High blood pressure is dangerous because of its strong link to heart complications and stroke. But it’s also been linked to worsening cognitive abilities, according to a 2020 study. The study found that high blood pressure causes the structure of the brain to change, resulting in worsened memory function and reaction times.
A major survey by scientists at Imperial College London has shown that lowering blood pressure in the over-80s cut their death rate by a fifth and heart attacks by a third.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association, said: “These results are great news for older people in the UK. We now need to ensure that, where appropriate, their blood pressure is treated and controlled.”
Symptoms of high blood pressure
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms unless it’s extremely high. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these can be symptoms of high blood pressure:
- Early morning headaches
- Vision changes (for example, your vision suddenly going blurry)
- Persistent buzzing in ears
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Irregular heart rhythms
Symptoms of severely high and uncontrolled blood pressure include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Confusion and anxiety
- Chest pain
- Muscle tremors.
How to check your blood pressure
The only way to truly know if your blood pressure is too high is to have it checked by a medical professional or by using a device.
You should get your blood pressure checked at least once a year. You can get your blood pressure checked at the doctor’s, your local clinic or pharmacy, or at an NHS health check.
You can also check your blood pressure at home using an inexpensive at-home device. This is a great option because it allows you to check your blood pressure regularly in a comfortable environment, which will give you a more accurate reading.
How to prevent high blood pressure
While a family history of hypertension plays a big role in your chances of getting high blood pressure, having a healthy lifestyle can help.
Here are some ways to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range:
- Stay within a healthy BMI range
- Drink responsibly – the NHS recommends you don’t drink over 14 units of alcohol a week. That’s four and a half glasses of wine or 7 cans of beer a week.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat and salt
- Exercising regularly
- Quit smoking
- Manage your stress
If you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension, it’s important to take your medicine as prescribed and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
High blood pressure and COVID-19 (coronavirus) Are you at risk?
If you have uncontrolled or untreated high blood pressure, you are especially vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. Get checked at your local pharmacy or doctor to avoid the risks associated with high blood pressure.
6 million people in the UK have high blood pressure and don’t know it. Help us Spread the word. Raise awareness of the importance of getting a blood pressure check by promoting #KnowYourNumbers
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