Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life – good heart health is key for achieving just that. One of the best ways to keep on top of your heart health is to monitor and manage your blood pressure by getting a regular pharmacy blood pressure test.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It’s a silent killer that can lead to some serious cardiovascular problems if it’s not treated. In the UK, one in four adults have high blood pressure!
Understanding Blood Pressure
So before we talk about the importance of blood pressure checks, let’s look at what blood pressure is and how it’s measured.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure represents the force when the heart contracts and pumps blood, while the diastolic pressure signifies the pressure between heartbeats when the heart is at rest.
A normal blood pressure reading is typically around 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). However, blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day depending on various factors such as physical activity, stress, and diet.
It’s important to monitor blood pressure regularly to identify any persistent high readings that may indicate hypertension.
The Silent Threat: High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of blood against the artery walls is consistently too high. It is often referred to as the silent killer because it rarely presents noticeable symptoms, making it difficult to detect without regular blood pressure checks. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to severe health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, and vascular dementia.
In the UK, approximately 15% of people between the ages of 40 and 75 may have undiagnosed high blood pressure that primarily occurs at night. This condition, known as reverse dipping, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and can be missed during typical daytime blood pressure measurements. Therefore, regular blood pressure checks that include nighttime monitoring are essential to identify individuals at risk.
Recognising the Signs of High Blood Pressure
Since high blood pressure often does not present any noticeable symptoms, we need to be aware of the risk factors and potential signs that may indicate the presence of hypertension. Some common risk factors for high blood pressure include age, family history, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and being overweight.
While most people with high blood pressure do not experience symptoms, some individuals may notice signs such as blurred vision, headaches, or nosebleeds.
Who Should Get Their Blood Pressure Checked?
High blood pressure can develop at any age, and it is recommended that all adults have their blood pressure checked regularly. Individuals under the age of 40 who have risk factors such as being overweight, smoking, or having other health problems should consider getting their blood pressure checked. For those over the age of 40, regular blood pressure checks should be conducted at least every five years.
Certain population groups are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, such as individuals of South Asian or Black descent. People living in deprived areas are also more susceptible to hypertension.
How Often Should You Get Your Blood Pressure Checked?
The frequency of blood pressure checks varies depending on your blood pressure reading and overall health. If you have healthy blood pressure readings (between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg), blood pressure checks at least every five years are usually fine. But as you get older, blood pressure tends to increase, so you may need more.
If blood pressure readings are slightly raised (between 120/80mmHg and 139/89mmHg), annual checks are recommended, along with lifestyle modifications to lower blood pressure. Individuals with high blood pressure readings (above 140/90mmHg) should consult their healthcare provider for further evaluation and guidance on managing their blood pressure. Regular monitoring and medication may be necessary to control hypertension effectively.
The Risks of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts significant strain on the arteries, heart, and other vital organs. Over time, this strain can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysms, kidney disease, and vascular dementia.
Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Blood Pressure
I love a proactive approach to health – leading a healthy lifestyle to prevent high blood pressure from happening in the first place is my personal goal. Leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure or help manage existing hypertension.
Lifestyle changes that promote healthy blood pressure levels include:
- Maintaining a Balanced Diet: Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products while minimising salt, saturated fats, and processed foods can help regulate blood pressure.
- Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, for at least 150 minutes per week can help lower blood pressure.
- Weight Management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
- Limiting Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure, so it is important to drink in moderation or avoid alcohol altogether.
- Avoiding Tobacco and Nicotine: Smoking and using tobacco products can increase blood pressure and damage blood vessels, contributing to the development of hypertension.
- Managing Stress: Implementing stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and engaging in hobbies or activities that promote relaxation can help lower blood pressure.
My Blood Pressure History
My mum has suffered from high blood pressure for years. She takes medication for it, so I always worry I will also suffer from high blood pressure. So far, my blood pressure is generally okay. I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I don’t drink or smoke, I eat a healthy, plant-based diet and try to stick to a regular exercise routine. I do fall on the exercise routine, though!
I did have blood-pressure problems after I had my baby. I had to go back into the hospital as my blood pressure kept going up and I showing signs of pre-eclampsia. Thankfully, it cleared up and I’ve been okay ever since!.
I will continue to lead a healthy lifestyle to prevent my blood pressure from becoming a problem. Eating well, moving more, not drinking and smoking great ways of reducing your risk of many diseases, not just high blood pressure.
Do you know what your blood pressure is?