High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects at least 1 in 4 adults in England alone. It is a condition that relates to the body’s circulatory system, specifically the pressure exerted to pump blood around the body. If this pressure is too high then it is likely to cause extra stress on the heart and arteries (blood vessels), which can lead to more serious conditions such as stroke, kidney disease, heart attack and even heart failure.
The symptoms associated with hypertension can sometimes be hard to spot, which is why it is important for adults to have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. It is recommended that adults have a check at least once every five years. A blood pressure check is a readily available test that can be performed by your GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professionals. It can also be carried out by yourself by using a home testing kit.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is presented by two figures; systolic and diastolic pressure. For example, the ideal blood pressure in a healthy adult would be 120/80mmHg or 120 over 80. The systolic reading (120) relates to the pressure of the blood when your heart beats. The diastolic reading (80) shows the pressure of the blood as your heart rests between beats. The diastolic reading reveals how strongly the arteries are resisting the blood flow. If your resting blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or over, then this will indicate hypertension or high blood pressure.
The risk of developing hypertension increases as we get older. Lifestyle choices can also strongly influence our risk of developing the condition. There isn’t always a clear cause but factors that increase the risk of developing hypertension include:
- Being overweight
- Being over 65 years of age
- Having a blood relative with hypertension
- Lack of exercise
- Eating a poor diet that is high in salt and lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables
- Drinking too much alcohol or coffee
- Being of African or Caribbean descent