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High blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. About one third of adults in Britain and Ireland have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it. However, if left untreated, it is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney and heart failure.

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

Did you know?

50 percent of the Irish and British population with high blood pressure are unaware that they have the condition because they were never diagnosed.

Check your blood pressure

The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test. All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every 5 years. Getting this done is easy and could save your life.

You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:

-at your GP surgery

-at some pharmacies

-as part of your NHS Health Check

You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.

How to measure your blood pressure

Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The 1st number is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats (systolic). The 2nd number is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart relaxes between beats (diastolic).

As a general guide:

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

*Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

Things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure

It's not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk.

You might be more at risk if you:

· are overweight

· eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables

· do not do enough exercise

· drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)

· smoke

· do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep

· are over 65

· have a relative with high blood pressure

Treatment for high blood pressure

Some people with high blood pressure may take medication to stop their blood pressure getting too high. Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it's already high. Talk to your doctor to help you decide about treatment would work best for you.

These lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:

  • reduce the amount of salt you consume and have a generally healthy diet

  • cut back on alcohol 

  • lose weight if you're overweight

  • exercise regularly

  • cut down on caffeine

  • stop smoking