High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms and many people are unaware they have the condition, but if left untreated, it can increase your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body and the diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
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. It is important to remember that everyone’s blood pressure will be slightly different. What’s considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.
Use this tool below to enter your blood pressure reading and find out what it means, along with information on how to reduce a high reading.
Causes of high blood pressure
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes. Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.
The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test with all adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.
This can be done:
- at your GP surgery
- at some pharmacies
- as part of your NHS Health Check
- in some workplaces
- home blood pressure monitor.
Things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure
There are a number of things that can make you more likely to have high blood pressure, such as:
- being 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)
- do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
- are over 65
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
- live in a deprived area
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.