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  • What is High Blood Pressure?

    High blood pressure (hypertension) is when you consistently, over a number of weeks, produce readings of 140/90 or higher.

    Hypertension can also be classified if just one of the numbers (systolic or diastolic) is consistently higher than it should be over a number of weeks.

    Having high blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels, which over time can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

  • What causes High Blood Pressure?

    For the majority of cases (90%) of high blood pressure, the causes are unknown. The remaining cases are usually the result of an underlying cause or condition, such as:
     
    • Diabetes.
    • Kidney disease.
    • Narrowing of the arteries that supply the kidneys.
    • Hormonal conditions, such as Cushing's syndrome.
    • Recreational drug use, specifically Cocaine, Crystal Methamphetamine and Amphetamines.
    • Herbal medicines and supplements.
    • The oral contraceptive pill.
    • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal-Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen.
    • Conditions that affect tissue in the body, such as Lupus disease.
  • How is Blood Pressure measured?

    Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
     
    It consists of two separate readings, a higher pressure (systolic) and a lower pressure (diastolic). An example of a blood pressure reading will look like; 120/70 mmHg or 120 over 70.
  • What are the symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

    Hypertension can have no obvious symptoms and many people with the condition are not even aware of it. The best way to find out is to have you blood pressure measured by a GP or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that all adults have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years. In some rare cases, hypertension can present with symptoms. This usually only occurs when the blood pressure is extremely high.
     
    These symptoms include:
     
    • Persistent headaches.
    • Double or blurred vision.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nosebleeds.
  • Can I lower my Blood Pressure by changing my lifestyle?

    High blood pressure can be managed through simple lifestyle changes, some of which can lower your blood pressure in a matter of weeks. A list of recommended lifestyle changes are listed below:
     
    • Reduce your salt intake. It is advised to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt per day.
    • Eat a balanced, healthy diet that is low in fat and rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.
    • Maintain an active lifestyle. Being physically active is one of the most effective ways of preventing and controlling hypertension.
    • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
    • Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. As little as four or more cups of coffee per day can increase your blood pressure.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Stopping smoking. Smoking has significant links with developing heart and lung disease.
     
    The steps above are recommended regardless of whether you have high blood pressure or not. A healthy diet and physical lifestyle can greater reduce the risk of developing a plethora of diseases. With regards to blood pressure sufferers, the healthier the lifestyle, the greater the benefits will be. In fact, many people who stick to a healthy regime do no need to take hypertension medication at all.
  • What medication is used to treat High Blood Pressure?

    Everybody is different when it comes to medication. What works well for a friend or relative may not work as well for you. The same principle applies with hypertension medication. For a lot of people, one hypertension medicine is not enough to effectively lower blood pressure.
     
    Each group of hypertension medication works in a different way, hence taking a combination of hypertension medicines will usually have a greater effect. Your doctor will have guidelines regarding which combination of medicines are most suitable for you. Your first line of treatment will depend on your age.
     
    Under 55 years of age: The usual choice will be an ACE inhibitor or an Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB).
    55 years and over: The usual choice will be a Calcium Channel Blocker.
    If you are from African or Caribbean heritage then a Calcium Channel Blocker is the preferred choice regardless of age.
     
    This first line of treatment may be enough to control and stabilise your blood pressure. If this initial treatment helps to reduce your blood pressure but doesn't fully control it then other hypertension medications can be used in conjunction with it.
    These medicines can include; Diuretics and Beta-Blockers.
  • What are ACE Inhibitors?

    An ACE Inhibitor works to reduce the amount of water in the blood whilst widening the arteries. Examples of ACE Inhibitors include; Captopril, Enalapril, FosinoprilPerindopril and Ramipril.

    These medicines are most effective in people under fifty-five years of age. ACE Inhibitors are less effective in black people and those over the age of fifty-five. They are also not suitable during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

    The most common side-effects associated with ACE Inhibitors are; dizziness, headaches, fatigue and a persistent dry cough. Most ACE Inhibitor names end in 'pril'

  • What is an ARB?

    ARB is an acronym for Angiotensin Receptor Blocker.

    These medicines work to lower your blood pressure by blocking the actions of angiotensin II. This has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels, causing them to dilate (widen). This allows for blood to flow with greater ease through the body. ARB's also work to reduce the amount of water retained in the body, which results in a reduction in pressure.

    The most common side-effects associated with ARB's are dizziness, headaches and cold and flu-like symptoms. In most cases, these side-effects are usually very mild. Examples of ARB's include; Candesartan, Irbesartan, Losartan and Valsartan. Most ARB names end in 'artan'

     

  • What are Thiazide diuretics?

    Diuretics are designed to reduce the amount of water in the blood and to widen the arteries.

    Examples of Diuretics include; Bendroflumethiazide, Hydrochlorothiazide and Indapamide.

    Diuretics are a good alternative for patients who cannot tolerate Calcium Channel Blockers. However, they are not suitable during pregnancy or for those whose suffer from Gout. Thiazide Diuretics can also raise the potassium and sugar levels in the blood so regular blood and urine tests are required. In some cases, Diuretics have been known to cause impotence. Most Diuretic medicine names end in 'ide'

  • What are Calcium Channel Blockers?

    Calcium Channel Blockers work to widen the arteries. They are found to be most effective in black people and those over the age of 55.

    Examples of Calcium Channel Blockers include; Amlodipine, Felodipine, Lercanidipine, Nifedipine and Verapamil.

    These medicines are not suitable for people with a history of heart or liver disease or for those with poor circulation. The most common side-effects associated with Calcium Channel Blockers are; dizziness, headaches, fatigue, swollen ankles and skin rashes (usually only temporary). Most Calcium Channel Blocker names end in 'pine'

  • What are the side effects of High Blood Pressure medication?

    Hypertension medication tends to be well tolerated. If you are finding that one particular medicine isn't working well for you then it is advised to consult your doctor, who can prescribe a more effective alternative.
     
    The most common side-effects associated with Hypertension medicines are:
     
    • ACE Inhibitors only: Persistent dry cough.
    • ARB only: Nasal congestion, diarrhoea, back and leg pain.
    • Calcium Channel Blockers only: Facial flushing, headaches, swollen ankles.
    • Thiazide Diuretics: Raises potassium and blood sugar levels, impotence.
    • Beta Blockers: Sleep disturbances, nightmares and impotence (uncommon)
  • Do I need to see a Doctor before I can get High Blood Pressure treatments?

    The only way to know for certain whether your blood pressure is high is to have it measured. This is normally done at your doctor's surgery, after an initial assessment. Once complete, your GP can then decide what course of action is best for you. Usually, this will involve monitoring your blood pressure, to ensure your readings are consistently higher than normal. The frequency of this monitoring and whether medication is required will depend on upon your initial readings.

    At The Independent Pharmacy, we only provide blood pressure tablets for patients who have already been prescribed medication from their doctor.

  • What is the most common age group to suffer from High Blood Pressure?

    The largest age group to suffer from hypertension is the over 65s. However, it is important to note that approximately five million people in The UK are currently unaware that they suffer from the condition. The only way of knowing for sure is to have your blood pressure tested.
     
    It is recommended that all adults have their blood pressure checked at regular intervals (at least every 5 years). The process is quick, easy and painless and could potentially save your life. Your odds of suffering with hypertension increase with age. However, there isn't always an obvious cause, though you are thought to be more at risk if:
     
    • You are overweight.
    • You are over 65 years old.
    • You have a blood relative with the condition.
    • You are of African or Caribbean descent.
    • Your diet contains too much salt.
    • You don't eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables.
    • You drink too much alcohol or caffeine.
    • You don't exercise regularly.
    • You smoke.
  • Is there a cure for High Blood Pressure?

    There is currently no cure for hypertension but simple lifestyle changes can significantly improve the condition.
     
    Certain lifestyle changes are proven to lower blood pressure fairly quickly, while others can take up to several weeks before the effects are apparent. For some, a combination of medication and lifestyle choices will be required.
  • Is High Blood Pressure a serious condition?

    If left untreated, hypertension can potentially lead to a number of cardiovascular health complaints (diseases of the heart and blood vessels). These include:
     
    • Stoke: Where the blood supply to part of the brain is restricted or cut off.
    • Heart attack: Where the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked.
    • Embolism: Where a blood clot or air bubble restricts the flow of blood within a vessel.
    • Aneurysm: Where the wall of a blood vessel bursts, causing an internal bleed.
    • Vascular Dementia: Where a reduction in blood flow to the brain causes damage to parts of the brain.
     
    Hypertension can also lead to kidney disease. Small blood vessels contained within the kidneys can become damaged as a result of high blood pressure, resulting in the kidneys not functioning properly. Mild to moderate kidney disease rarely presents with any obvious symptoms. When diagnosed, kidney disease will need to be treated using a combination of medication and dietary changes. Kidney Dialysis or transplant may be required for more serious cases.
  • High Blood Pressure and pregnancy

    High blood pressure affects approximately 10-15% of all pregnancies. This can present in two ways during pregnancy.
     
    These are:
     
    Chronic Hypertension: This is where high blood pressure was already present prior to pregnancy.
    Gestational Hypertension: This form of hypertension is related to the pregnancy.
     
    The types of treatments you can receive will depend on the cause of the hypertension. The key to a healthy pregnancy is to ensure your blood pressure is controlled. Regular checkups with your antenatal team are the best way of monitoring your condition. An additional antenatal appointment will be offered if it is required to meet the needs of your baby.

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