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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!


Guest blogger: Leanne Gillespie - CHSS Advice Line Nurse

March 6, 2016

High blood pressure rarely has any symptoms and yet 1 in 4 adults are affected by it. But why is high blood pressure dangerous if left untreated and what should you do to try and bring your numbers down?

Here our Award-Winning Advice Line Nurses answer the top questions about blood pressure.

Do you have any questions about chest, heart or stroke illness? Ask the nurse: freephone 0808 801 0899

1.What is blood pressure?

The heart pumps blood around the body to deliver oxygen and energy. In order to do this a certain amount of pressure must be present in the blood vessels. The pressure generated when the heart contracts and pushes the blood through your arteries is known as the systolic pressure and when the heart relaxes between beats it is known as the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and you may have seen it written as 128/78mmHg for example. This would be read as ‘one hundred and twenty eight, over seventy eight’.

If you are over 40, you should see your GP or practice nurse for a free blood pressure check every 5 years but you can ask to have yours checked whatever age you are.

2. What is high blood pressure and why is it important?

High blood pressure, also called Hypertension, is a diagnosis that your GP may make after your readings have been taken on different occasions. It is normal for our blood pressure to change from day to day and your GP will want to have several readings to make a formal diagnosis. A blood pressure reading of around 120/80mmHg is considered ‘ideal’ so if your reading is above this you may be asked to have it checked again.

In the UK, high blood pressure in an adult is usually a reading of above 140/90mmHg.

Most people with high blood pressure feel perfectly well and are often unaware they have it. That’s why it is so important to have your numbers checked. Your GP, nurse or sometimes staff at your local pharmacy can check your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is important as it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which can lead to heart disease or stroke.

High Bld Pressure

3. Who is at risk of high blood pressure?

Often there isn’t always a clear cause of high blood pressure but there are a few factors that may increase your risk of developing it.  You may be at increased risk if you:

  • are aged over 65
  • are overweight
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • are of African or Caribbean descent
  • eat too much salt
  • don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • don’t do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol
  • drink too much coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke

 4. Treatment and prevention

You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by:

  • losing weight if you need to
  • reducing the amount of salt you eat
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthy diet
  • cutting back if you drink too much alcohol
  • cutting down on caffeine
  • stopping smoking

Your GP or nurse can offer you help and advice on any of these steps. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, taking steps to a healthier lifestyle may bring your numbers down. Sometimes, medication may be prescribed if your blood pressure cannot be managed by lifestyle changes alone.

There are lots of different types of blood pressure medications and it may take some ‘tweaking’ to find the right medications for you! What works for a friend or relative may not work for you  so you may have to change medications in the early stages of managing your high blood pressure. The important thing is to find the right medications to reduce your blood pressure as left untreated, you may be at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

For more information about blood pressure or for a free copy of the booklet “Living with High Blood Pressure” please contact the Advice Line Nurses on freephone 0808 901 0899 Monday- Friday 9:30am to 4pm or visit our website

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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