What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure measures the force of blood in your arteries (or large blood vessels) as it is pumped around your body by your heart. If this pressure is too high it puts a strain on your arteries and your heart, which makes it more likely that you will suffer complications such as a heart attack, a stroke or kidney disease.
A person who has high blood pressure is said to suffer from a condition known as ‘Hypertension’.

How will I know if my blood pressure is high?

Hypertension is generally referred to as ‘the silent killer’. Most of the time, high blood pressure comes without any symptoms, and the first sign that a person has high blood pressure may be the onset of complications such as a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. Sometimes, however, with severe hypertension, you may experience quite severe headaches. It is important, therefore, to have your blood pressure measured regularly at home and by your doctor.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, using a portable instrument called a Sphygmomanometer (or Sphyg for short) which you can purchase at your local Chemist. Blood pressure measurement is recorded as two figures:

  • Systolic pressure (the top figure) which is the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
  • Diastolic pressure (the bottom figure) which is the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats

A diagnosis of Hypertension is made if blood pressure readings on at least 2 or 3 separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be in the region of 140/90mmHg or higher. A blood pressure reading below this is generally considered to be normal depending on individual circumstances.

Who is most at risk of high blood pressure?

Being of African descent significantly increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. This risk increases further with age. The cause of high blood pressure is often not clear. However, your chances of developing high blood pressure are likely to increase if you:

  • are overweight
  • have a relative (such as father, mother, aunt, uncle or grandparent) with high blood pressure
  • eat a lot of salt
  • don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • don’t take enough exercise
  • drink a lot of coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • drink a lot of alcohol
  • are aged over 50

What can I do to lower my blood pressure?

If you fall into any of the categories mentioned above, you may be encouraged to learn that making simple changes to your lifestyle will lower your risk of developing a high blood pressure. To prevent high blood pressure, you should consider:

  • losing weight if necessary
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthy diet
  • reducing the amount of alcohol you consume
  • giving up smoking
  • drinking less coffee
  • reducing the amount of salt used in cooking (and not adding salt at mealtimes)

Please consider having your blood pressure checked at least two or three times a year. This will increase the likelihood of your doctor picking up a rise in blood pressure and making an early diagnosis of hypertension before any harmful complications arise.

What do I do if my blood pressure is high?

If your blood pressure is found to be high, it will need to be closely monitored until it is brought under control by means of lifestyle changes and sometimes by medication as deemed necessary by your doctor.

Contact us to speak to a healthcare advisor about ‘Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension and related conditions’.

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