What to Know about Hypertension and High Blood Pressure

 

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measurement of pressure of the blood in your arteries, which are vessels that carry your blood from your heart to the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get blood moving around your body. Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day and is normal for it to go up when you’re moving about.

However, if it’s always high – especially when resting – then you need to do something about it. The only way to find out your blood pressure levels is by getting it measured.

How can I get my blood pressure measured?

You don’t have to wait to be offered a blood pressure check, you can go and ask for one at multiple places.

  1. Local pharmacies often have blood pressure monitoring services, which can be used for free or for a small charge. Click here to find the pharmacies in Camden that offer this.

If you have a favourite pharmacy, you can always ask if they do blood pressure checks.

  1. GP surgeries offer blood pressure monitoring services, that can be administered by a GP, a practice nurse, or a healthcare assistant. Many also offer a self-service machine.
  2. Many health events in the community offer blood pressure monitoring services.
  3. The NHS offer a Health Check, which is a 25-minute appointment at your GP surgery. There they check your blood pressure, as well as your height, weight, smoking status, physical activity levels, and diet.

 

You can also buy an at-home monitoring kit, which cost around £20. The British Heart Foundation has some useful guidance on how to monitor your blood pressure at home.

Understanding the measurement

A blood pressure chart depicting diastolic and systolic blood pressure.Your blood pressure reading will be given as two numbers, e.g. 140/90 (or ‘140 over 90’).

The first number is the highest level of your blood pressure. This is the rate at which your heart beats and contracts to pump blood around your body and is also known as ‘systolic pressure’.

The second number is the lowest level of your blood pressure. This is the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats and is known as ‘diastolic pressure’.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, your blood pressure should ideally be between 90/60 and 120/80, but definitely below 140/90. If it’s above this, it indicates that you may have high blood pressure or hypertension, and you should speak to your GP.

If you have a heart or circulatory disease (such as coronary heart disease or stroke), diabetes, or kidney disease – it should be under 130/80. If your blood pressure is 180/110 or higher, it means you have severe hypertension.

Low blood pressure is anything less than 90/60. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem, but if you are worried you can always contact your GP.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the biggest known causes of disability and early death in the UK but is not something you can usually feel or notice. It makes arteries less flexible and damages the artery walls, which limits the blood and oxygen supply to the rest of your body and can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. If left untreated, it can also cause:

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Problems with your sight
  • Vascular dementia

What causes high blood pressure?

Most people get high blood pressure because of their diet, lifestyle, or because they have a medical condition. Sometimes it runs in families or can worsen with age.

It’s been found to be more common if you are of black African or black Caribbean descent. But even in all these cases, you can still improve your blood pressure by changing your diet and being active.

How can I lower my blood pressure?

The main ways to reduce your blood pressure are to:

  • Eat less salt or salty foods
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Be more active
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight

Where can I go for more information?

The British Heart Foundation has plenty of useful and easy-to-understand information about heart or circulatory conditions, tests or treatments, as well as a support network for those with heart conditions. As always, if you have any questions, contact your GP.