Manage high blood pressure

If your blood pressure is consistently higher than it should be it is called high blood pressure (or hypertension).

High blood pressure is not a disease in itself. However, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.

Over the years high blood pressure slowly damages the blood vessels by making them narrower and more rigid. This means that:

  • Your heart has to work harder to push the blood through your blood vessels and the overall blood pressure rises.
  • It is easier for clots to get caught and for fatty debris (atheroma) to block your blood vessels.

This is what happens in heart attacks and strokes.

Monitoring blood pressure

High blood pressure rarely has any symptoms. The only way to know what your blood pressure is, is to have it measured.

High blood pressure is more common as you get older so it is important to get it checked regularly.

It is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked at least every 5 years from the age of 40.

Measuring blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two readings:

  • Systolic pressure (higher reading): records the pressure within the blood vessels as the heart contracts
  • Diastolic pressure (lower reading): records the pressure when the heart fills up again

These readings are recorded for example as 120/70mmHg.

What is an optimal blood pressure?

  • Most doctors agree that ideal blood pressure is about 120/80mmHg.
  • Less than 140/90mmHg is considered to be within the normal range.
  • If your blood pressure is consistently higher than 140/90mmHg you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Medical treatment

The aim of medical treatment is to try and get your blood pressure as close to your target range as possible.

There are several groups of medicines that are used to treat high blood pressure, each of which works slightly differently. If you notice any troublesome side effects then discuss these with your doctor as there may be a different medicine you can try instead.

Lifestyle changes

Changes to lifestyle risk factors can significantly reduce high blood pressure. You can help to reduce your blood pressure by:

  • Losing weight
  • Reducing your salt intake
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Taking regular exercise and being more active
  • Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat