Know your blood pressure numbers
High blood pressure (hypertension) puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels. If untreated, over time this extra pressure can increase your risk of a stroke and other conditions such as kidney disease and vascular dementia. Many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure as it rarely has noticeable symptoms. The only way of knowing there is a problem is to have your blood pressure checked. All adults should have their blood pressure checked regularly (at least every five years for healthy adults and more frequently if at high risk). Having this done is easy and could save your life. Adults aged 40-74 will have their blood pressure checked as part of their NHS Health Check or you can ask your GP to check your blood pressure at any time.
When your blood pressure is measured it will be written as two numbers, for example 120/80. You would read this as ‘120 over 80’. Both of these numbers are very important. The higher they are, the higher your risk of health problems in the future. Ideally, your blood pressure reading should be below 120/80mmHg (for the lowest possible risk of disease). However, anything under 130/80mmHg is generally considered normal. You are said to have high blood pressure if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher. Having a raised blood pressure reading in one test does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure as blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day.
Your chances of having high blood pressure increase as you get older. There isn't always a clear cause of high blood pressure but you are at increased risk if you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, are aged over 65, have a relative with high blood pressure, are of African or Caribbean descent or drink too much coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks). The good news is that high blood pressure scores can be brought down by making changes such as cutting down on salt, caffeine and alcohol, losing weight, becoming more active and stopping smoking. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe you blood pressure-lowering drugs, but they may want you to try to make changes to your habits first.
The only way to know what your blood pressure is, is to have it measured. It is important to know what your blood pressure numbers are, and to lower them if you need to. You can find advice on leading a healthy lifestyle on this website.”