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What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood moving round your body.
Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day and night, and it’s normal for it to go up while you’re moving about. It’s when your overall blood pressure is consistently high, even when you are resting, that you need to do something about it.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. It means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means that your heart is having to work harder to pump blood around your body.
Most people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms. Although you may feel well, having consistently high blood pressure is unhealthy and can lead to serious health problems. If you ignore it, it can lead to problems like heart attacks or stroke. If left untreated, high blood pressure can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, problems with your sight and dementia.
Arteries (blood vessels) are normally stretchy to cope with your blood pressure going up and down. If you have high blood pressure, your arteries lose their stretchiness and become stiff and narrowed. The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up.
If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.
What causes high blood pressure?
There isn’t always an explanation for the cause of high blood pressure, but most people develop high blood pressure because of their diet, lifestyle or medical condition.
Sometimes high blood pressure runs in families and can also worsen with age. People living in deprived areas are at higher risk of having high blood pressure, and it is also more common if you are of Asian, black African or black Caribbean descent. Even in these cases, you may still be able to improve your blood pressure by changing your diet and being active.
These can all increase your risk of getting high blood pressure:
• Eating too much salt
• Being overweight
• Not doing enough exercise
• Drinking too much alcohol
Where can I get my blood pressure measured or tested?
You can get your blood pressure checked at:
• GP surgeries
• some pharmacies
• some workplaces
• an NHS health check (for those aged 40-74 years)
As many as 5 million adults in the UK have undiagnosed high blood pressure. Often these people will feel well, even when the damage from high blood pressure to other organs has already begun. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. So, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked. And encourage your friends and family to do the same!
How can I lower my blood pressure?
The good news is that high blood pressure can be treated and often prevented, and there is a lot you can do to lower your risk.
Here are some of the ways you can reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure:
• Eating less salt and more fruit and vegetables
• Your Healthy Kitchen
• Reducing how much alcohol you drink
• Being more active
• Losing weight
Free NHS Health Checks (Aged 40-74) = https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-health-check/
British Heart Foundation = https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure
Blood Pressure UK (Know Your Numbers) = http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/Home
NHS Live Well = https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/