Causes of High Blood Pressure & Hypertension
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of strokes and heart disease in the UK.
Therefore it's vital to recognise that there are many unhealthy behavious that can lead to an increase in your blood pressure levels. The best form of prevention for high blood pressure and hypertension is usually a change in lifestyle and making healthier choices.
Almost a third of people in England have high blood pressure, and many people don’t realise that their blood pressure is higher than it should be.
High blood pressure increases your risk of developing heart disease as well as having a heart attack or stroke. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has any noticeable symptoms. Because of this, it is sometimes called the ‘silent killer’.
High Blood Pressure: High Risk Groups
Often there is no definite reason for someone to have high blood pressure, however as you get older, your chances of having high blood pressure increase. You may also be at risk of having high blood pressure if you:
- Are overweight
- Don’t do enough exercise
- Don’t eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat too much salt
- Drink too much caffeine
- Drink too much alcohol
- Have a relative with high blood pressure
- Are of Asian, African or Caribbean descent
Finding Out Your Blood Pressure
The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked for a while or don’t know what your blood pressure is, you can have it checked at your local Alphega Pharmacy.
Having your blood pressure checked usually takes less than ten minutes and your Pharmacist will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you have.
‘For years I was on the combined oral contraceptive pill and this meant I tended to always be on the higher end of normal for my BP. Once I switched to the mini pill my BP dropped back to normal range and this was a relief to me and my GP.’
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures. A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is diagnosed when your blood pressure is found to be higher than it should be on several separate occasions. If your blood pressure is consistently high on each occasion, your Pharmacist may refer to you your GP.
Preventing High Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure can mean that you're at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
There are lots of things you can do to prevent and reduce high blood pressure, including making lifestyle changes such as:
- Being a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
- Cutting down on caffeine
- Watching how much alcohol you drink
- If you smoke, stopping smoking
How to Reduce Your Blood Pressure
If you find out that you have high blood pressure, you can make changes to adopt a healthier lifestyle to help lower your blood pressure and make your heart healthier:
- Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the main causes of heart disease; stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to have a healthier heart. One year after stopping smoking, your risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.
- Being more physically active can also reduce your risk of developing heart disease as well as helping to beat stress and boosting your mood. You should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week; you don’t have to do this all in one go, doing 20 or 30 minutes at a time will make is easier to fit exercise into your daily routine.
- Watch your, weight as being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart disease. In fact excess weight around your waist can put you at greater risk from high blood pressure due to the extra strain it places on your circulatory system. If you are overweight, losing just 10 pounds can help to reduce your blood pressure.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, sugar and salt. Reducing your salt intake by just half a teaspoon each day can do wonders for your blood pressure and heart heath. Try to prepare meals from scratch rather than eating ready meals or takeaways that can be loaded with fat, sugar and salt. Increasing the amount of oily fish in your diet and eating more fibre can also lower your risk of heart disease. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Watch how much alcohol you are drinking and try to reduce your intake if you are a regular drinker. Not only does alcohol contain calories that can have an impact on your weight, drinking too much can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Always check the food labels when you are shopping to see how many calories, fat, sugar and salt are included. Understanding what is in the food you’re eating will help you to make healthier choices. If you find that you are struggling to eat healthy foods then keeping a ‘food diary’ can really help you monitor what you’re eating and then make healthier choices that are right for you.
- Reduce your stress levels. Chronic stress is an important factor in contributing towards high blood pressure. If you deal with stress by smoking, eating unhealthy foods or drinking alcohol then you will be more at risk of having high blood pressure. Knowing your ‘stress triggers’ and taking the right amount of time to relax and unwind each day can help to gradually reduce your stress levels over time.
If your blood pressure is high, it will need to be closely monitored until it is controlled and within the normal range. As well as making lifestyle changes, your GP may prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.
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