High blood pressure, also referred to as “hypertension” is not a disease but a risk factor for heart disease & more importantly stroke. Your circulation is a closed system & high pressure within this system damages the inner surface of blood vessels & / or weakens the blood vessel wall. Damage risks blood clots forming, weakness puts the vessel at risk of rupture, needless to say either can be catastrophic.
High blood pressure is called the silent killer because until you have a fatal blood clot or failed vessel wall you may not have had any symptoms. High blood pressure is therefore asymptomatic. You only know you have raised blood pressure if you have it checked.
How do I check my blood pressure?
Your G.P., practice nurse, or pharmacist will do this for you but more and more people are doing their own checks using home blood pressure monitors. Home blood pressure monitors are now affordable, accurate & easy to use.
Whether you choose a wrist monitor or an upper arm device doesn’t really matter. Upper arm monitors are the more traditional & have been more rigorously verified in trials but either could save your life. Home blood pressure monitors are also useful in helping your G.P. monitor your treatment over time if you do have established high blood pressure.
What should my blood pressure be?
Normal blood pressure is approx. 140/80. High blood pressure is approx.160/100. Mildly elevated or borderline blood pressure is somewhere in between. The top number “systolic” is the pressure within your circulation when your heart beats & “diastolic” the pressure within your circulation when your heart is filling or relaxing.
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure doesn’t usually have a cause but is simply the way you were made. Some people are tall some people have high blood pressure. There is however still one or two things you can do to help lower blood pressure. Reducing salt & alcohol intake helps, keeping weight under control & exercise all reduce blood pressure. It is also vitally important if you have high blood pressure to consider your other risk factors for heart disease or stroke. These are; smoking, raised cholesterol, diabetes, family history, obesity, or lack of exercise.
Before it is too late.
If you have never had your blood pressure checked take the time in the next week or two to have it measured.
Dr. Brendan C. Kellett BSc MBBS MRCGP
Dr. Kellett is a practicing GP and a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners