High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can often be asymptomatic which means that you are unaware that you have it. Hence, you should get your blood pressure checked regularly. Symptoms which some people experience which may suggest they have hypertension are headaches, nosebleeds and vision problems. It is extremely important to discover whether you have high blood pressure and if so, to have it treated. This is because hypertension increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, heart failure and vision loss.
Normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 130/85mmHg and ‘high-normal’ blood pressure is 130/85 to 139/89mmHg. Mild hypertension is classified as 140/90 to 149/99mmHg and anything above that is moderate or severe hypertension. The ideal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg, as stated by the British Heart Foundation.
It is often the case that no specific cause is identified for someone’s high blood pressure.
Factors that can lead to high blood pressure include:
• Being overweight
• Doing little or no exercise
• Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
• Eating too much salt
• A predisposition to hypertension shown by a family history of the condition
• A side-effect of medication e.g. the contraceptive pill
There may, however, be an undiagnosed cause for your condition such as kidney disease or a hormonal imbalance, which is why it is important to see a doctor.
Treatment and management to control your blood pressure:
• The first step may simply be to monitor your blood pressure regularly to determine whether it was unusually high when it was measured previously, due to anxiety, for example.
• Make lifestyle changes which can all lower your blood pressure, which includes:
• Losing weight
• Doing regular exercise which is not too strenuous (avoid weight lifting which can raise your blood pressure).
• Reducing your salt intake as your blood pressure can fall by approximately 5mmHg by consuming 5 grams less a day. You should not consume more than 6 grams of salt a day. Use other things to add flavour to your food such as pepper, herbs and spices.
• Eating at least five fruit and vegetables a day as they contain potassium which can help maintain a lower blood pressure.
• Moderating alcohol intake, men should drink no more than 3 units per day and women should drink no more than 2 units per day. (One unit of alcohol is defined as half a pint of beer, one single measure of spirit or one small glass of wine). Try to avoid drinking alcohol on at least one day a week as excessive drinking can lead to cardiovascular disease.
• Stopping smoking as this can dramatically reduce the risk of a heart condition associated with hypertension. The action of smoking itself also raises blood pressure.
There is a range of drugs that can be taken to treat hypertension. Please ask your doctor for further advice on treatment for high blood pressure.
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