High blood pressure is a common condition which causes the pressure inside a person’s arteries to be higher than it should be. But many people won’t realise they have the condition because symptoms are rarely noticeable. The American Heart Association describes high blood pressure as the “silent killer” as it can lead to heart attack and stroke which can be life-threatening.
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So how can you tell if you have the condition?
The NHS says the only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
People can get their blood pressure tested at a number of places, including their GP surgery, at some pharmacies, some workplaces, or blood pressure monitors can be purchased for use at home.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers – the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure.
The NHS explains: “The systolic pressure (higher number) if the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
“The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.”
High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher, or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80.
Ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
If blood pressure reads between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg it could mean a person is at risk of developing high blood pressure.
In this case, a person should take steps to keep their blood pressure under control.
What causes high blood pressure
The exact cause of high blood pressure is not clear, but certain factors can raise a person’s risk of developing the condition.
- Age – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
- A family history of high blood pressure
- Being of African or Caribbean origin
- A high amount of salt in your food
- Lack of exercise
- Being overweight
- Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Long-term sleep deprivation
How to prevent and reduce high blood pressure
There are three ways to keep blood pressure under control according to Blood Pressure UK, these are healthy eating, exercise and keeping to a healthy weight.
When it comes to healthy eating, the blood pressure charity advises: “Your blood pressure readings are what your eat.
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“Reducing your salt intake, eating more fruit and vegetables and keeping to alcohol limits will lower your blood pressure.”
Eating salt makes the body retain water, and if you eat too much, the extra water stored in your body can raise your blood pressure.
But eating more fruit and vegetables has been proven to help lower blood pressure.
When it comes to exercise, Blood Pressure UK says: “Being more active and taking regular exercise lower blood pressure by keeping your heart and arteries in good condition.”
Cycling, brisk walking, swimming, dancing, mowing the lawn, tennis and jogging are all considered good for blood pressure.
Activities not so good for blood pressure are weightlifting, squash, skydiving, spitting, and scuba diving.
When it comes to weight, Blood pressure UK said: “Being the right weight lowers blood pressure because your heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
“Losing weight if you need to will help to reduce your blood pressure and heart strain.”
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