6 things you need to know about high blood pressure

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major cause of heart attack and stroke, but most of us don’t even know the facts. Senior cardiac nurse Julie Ward explains.

1. It’s a silent killer.

If you have high blood pressure, you may not even know about it - that's why high blood pressure is often called the ‘silent killer’. There are rarely any signs or symptoms, so millions of people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it.

2. You might not know about it till you have a heart attack or stroke.

The first time you may find out that you have high blood pressure is when you have a stroke or a heart attack. High blood pressure can damage the walls of the arteries, causing coronary artery disease and stroke. It can also damage the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.

It’s estimated that there are up to 7 million people in the UK with untreated or undiagnosed high blood pressure

3. Millions of us have it.

There are around 16 million people in the UK with high blood pressure (nearly 1 in 3 adults). Nine million of those have been diagnosed, but it’s estimated that there are up to 7 million people in the UK with untreated or undiagnosed high blood pressure.

4. It’s all about the numbers.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The first (or top) number of your reading is the pressure when your blood pressure is at its highest (when your heart squeezes, called systolic pressure). The second (or bottom) number is the pressure when your blood pressure is at its lowest (when your heart relaxes, called diastolic pressure).  Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should be aiming for a blood pressure less than 140/90 mmHg (usually spoken as “140 over 90”).  

5. Exercise reduces your risk.

Not taking regular exercise can increase your risk of high blood pressure. That’s just one of the many reasons why we should all get at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity.

6. Alcohol increases your risk.

Too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Other lifestyle factors that increase your risk of high blood pressure include being overweight, and not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

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