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Blood Pressure Monitoring

High blood pressure also called hypertension affects millions of people increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. The only way for you to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured with a blood pressure monitor. We recommend use the latest machines from Omron, A&D, Microlife that are suitable for home use.

High blood pressure causes strain on the blood vessels carrying blood around your body. This strain can cause vessels to become clogged up or to weaken, and this can lead to narrow blood vessels and clots that can cause damage to the heart or brain. Having high blood pressure can also cause heart and kidney failure.

It is important to realise that the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of heart disease or stroke. This means that all of us should be adopting a lifestyle that will help to lower our blood pressure whether we have high blood pressure or not.

How can I lower my blood pressure?

Fortunately there is a wealth of quality information about things you can do now to begin to understand, lower and control your blood pressure as well as prescription drugs and medicines.

Leading a healthy lifestyle means exercising, healthy eating - a diet low in fat and salt and more fruit and vegetables, being the right weight for your height, drinking sensibly and not smoking. By following these guidelines the risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the future is reduced.

High blood pressure can be treated and there are many things that help lower it. To see the impact on lowering your blood pressure by changes in your lifestyle, diet and medicines many people find encouragement in regularly measuring the blood pressure.

The following information presented here is to give you information about your blood pressure and help you understand more about treatments and help you keep your blood pressure controlled.

What is blood pressure?

Your heart pumps blood around your body through a network of tubing called arteries. Every time your heart pumps it forces blood through these arteries and into smaller blood vessels called capillaries. The force that your heart produces in your arteries when it pumps is called your blood pressure. When the heart contracts and forces blood through the arteries your blood pressure goes up, when the heart relaxes it goes down.

This pressure can be measured and is usually written down like this:


The top number, which is called the systolic pressure, shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart is forcing blood through them. The bottom number called the diastolic pressure, shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes. The top number can be anywhere from 90 to 240 and the bottom number can be anywhere from 60 to 140. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury, which is written down as: mmHg

Everyone has a different blood pressure and it can change in the same person during the day and night.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. The higher your bloods pressure the higher the chance of heart disease or stroke.

140/90mmHg is the level of blood pressure used to diagnose high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is consistently raised at these levels and above, it will need to be treated. Treatment may involve making changes to your lifestyle and/or taking medication. This level of 140/90mmHg is the level for high blood pressure for everyone, male/female, young/old.

140/85mmHg is the target blood pressure for people who are receiving treatment for their high blood pressure. The only exception to this target level is if you have diabetes, kidney disease or have already suffered a stroke or heart attack. Then it may be worthwhile lowering your blood pressure even further.

Why is high blood pressure important?

High blood pressure increases risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia. If you have high blood pressure the greater your risk of developing these conditions.

Having high blood pressure causes strain on the vessels carrying blood around your body. This strain can cause vessels to become clogged up or to weaken and this in turn can lead to narrow blood vessels and clots, which can cause damage to the heart or brain. Having high blood pressure can cause heart failure. High blood pressure can cause kidney failure and some eye conditions.

High blood pressure is a serious condition that you should not ignore. However it can be lowered either by changing your lifestyle or if necessary adding in tablets. The lower your blood pressure the lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease.

How is blood pressure measured?

Your blood pressure can be measured either by using a device called a sphygmomanometer or by using a digital machine.

A sphygmomanometer is the older kind of equipment that measures blood pressure using a column of mercury. These are used less frequently now as they can often give inaccurate measurements.

These day automatic, or partly automatic, digital machines are used to measure blood pressure. Models that have been validated by the British Hypertension Society are considered accurate when used properly. In order to be sure that you have high blood pressure, you will be asked to have readings taken several times. This is to make sure that you have consistently high blood pressure, rather than high blood pressure because you are anxious or nervous in medical environments or have rushed to be there –

Causes high blood pressure?

There is no definite cause for their high blood pressure for most people and doctors call this essential hypertension. The small blood vessels in the body narrow and this causes the pressure to build up.

High blood pressure can run in the family, and if you have a parent with high blood pressure then you are more likely to have high blood pressure yourself.

Some other conditions are also linked to high blood pressure, such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. If you have any of these conditions then it is even more important that your blood pressure is well controlled.

Your blood pressure is very much affected by your lifestyle. The important factors are:

  • Eating too much salt
  • Not eating enough fruit and vegetables
  • Not exercising enough
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

You cannot change your genes, or the fact that you will grow older; you can change your lifestyle. Changing your diet and exercising more will help lower your blood pressure.

Can high blood pressure be treated?

High blood pressure can be treated. Lowering blood pressure causes a large reduction in strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease that would otherwise have occurred and may reduce your risk of developing some kinds of dementia.

How will my high blood pressure be treated?

How your high blood pressure is treated will depend on how high it is and on what other ‘risk factors’ you have for heart disease and stroke.

If your blood pressure is between 140-160/90-100mmHg then you will probably be asked to make some changes to your lifestyle. You will probably not need to take tablets providing that the changes you make work. In this way you can lower your own blood pressure without needing to take tablets. However, some people with a blood pressure in this range may be prescribed medication to take. This is usually if they are older or have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high cholesterol, smoking or already have complications such as a previous stroke or heart attack.

So if you have a blood pressure reading in this range you should make the lifestyle changes described at below.

If your blood pressure is 160/100mmHg or more you will probably be given tablets as well as being asked to make changes to your lifestyle. You are aiming to reach a target blood pressure of 140/85mmHg or less whilst feeling fit and well. There will, however, be a small number of people who may find their blood pressure very difficult to control even with medication.

How will my high blood pressure be treated?

All people who have high blood pressure should make changes to their lifestyle. These changes can be enough to lower your blood pressure to a level where you may not need to take tablets. Even if you need tablets, the changes to your lifestyle will make the tablets more effective.

These changes to your lifestyle should be adopted by the whole family, as, increasing evidence suggests that this will lower blood pressure and prevent high blood pressure from occurring later in life. A healthy diet will also make you feel much better.

These are the five main changes you can make to help lower high blood pressure:

  • 1. Cut down on your salt

    We each eat about 10 grams of salt (sodium chloride) each day and this can easily be reduced by half to 5 grams each day. That means cutting down from a dessert spoon of salt every day to a teaspoon. You should not add salt to food or use it in cooking. However, most salt is hidden in many processed foods and this may not be obvious, for example salt may be hidden in bread, many cereals and ready meals so avoid these high salt foods where possible.

  • 2. Eat more fruit and vegetables

    Fruit and vegetables contain potassium, which has the opposite effect of salt and can help to lower blood pressure. If you can manage to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables and cut down the amount of salt that you eat then you should see your blood pressure fall by quite a lot. We should all be eating seven to nine portions of fruit or vegetables each day.

  • 3. Exercise - be more active

    Being active can help you to lower your blood pressure. It will also help you to lose weight and reduce the amount of fats (cholesterol) in your blood. Being active doesn't have to mean jogging, it can mean walking the dog regularly and gradually increasing the amount you do over three to six months. You should aim to be active for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.

  • 4. Weight -

    Everyone has an ideal weight. Your ideal weight will depend on how tall you are and whether you are male or female. If you are overweight you should try and get down to a weight within the ideal range for you.

  • Many people find losing weight, and maintaining weight loss, difficult. A healthy diet is an essential first step. Once you are eating a healthy diet cut down the amount of food you eat until you start to lose weight.
  • 5. Drink alcohol in moderate amounts only

    As well as the five factors set out above there are two other key risk factors for stroke and heart disease, smoking and eating too much saturated fat. They don't in themselves cause high blood pressure but they do make you more at risk of heart disease or stroke. However, the combined effect of stopping smoking, cutting down the amount of saturated you eat and lowering your blood pressure causes a very large reduction in your risk of having a stroke or having a heart attack.

Giving up smoking

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for having a heart attack. If you smoke it will not directly affect your blood pressure, but it will cause your arteries to narrow, just as high blood pressure does. So, if you smoke and you have high blood pressure your arteries will narrow much more quickly. There are now lots of ways in which you can make giving up smoking easier for yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy, in the form of patches and gum, for example, and groups to help smokers quit are just a few. If you have difficulties talk to your doctor or nurse.

Cutting down on saturated fat

We all eat too much fat. The type of fat that causes the most problems is saturated fat, for example animal fats and some vegetable oils such as palm and coconut oil. Fat increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood. The higher the level of cholesterol in your blood the greater your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have high blood pressure reducing you saturated fat intake is very beneficial.

These changes to your lifestyle will reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, but they may not lower your blood pressure enough. It may be necessary for you to take tablets as well.

Medicines for high blood pressure

If you need tablets, there is very strong evidence that they will reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, provided your blood pressure is well controlled. Tablets can prolong life and reduce the risk of complications from high blood pressure. In most people lowering blood pressure with tablets causes no problems, in fact many people feel better.

As with any medicines, those for high blood pressure can cause side effects in some people. Side effects are rare and only happen in a small number of people. It is important that if you feel that any medicine you are taking is makes you feel unwell that you should go back to your doctor to talk. Tablets and combination of drugs can be changed to find the best ones that keep your blood pressure controlled, and leave you feeling well. Most people are prescribed more than one tablet to control blood pressure and it may take time to find the combination of tablets that suits you best. The aim of any tablet, combined with lifestyle changes, is to get your blood pressure to below 140/85mmHg.

Taking tablets for high blood pressure is something that most people will have to do for the rest of their lives and continuing to take them is very important. You may have no symptoms from your high blood pressure, but if it is left untreated you will put yourself at risk from heart disease or stroke. As soon as you stop taking tablets your blood pressure will go back up, as will your risk of heart attack or stroke. Many people find that once they get into a routine with their tablets, they become a part of their daily lives, like cleaning their teeth.

The purpose of both the lifestyle changes that you make and the tablets that you take is to control your blood pressure with you feeling completely well. Once your blood pressure is controlled you should be able to lead your life as normal.

If you are considering buying a blood pressure monitor to measure your blood pressure accurately at home, ask your pharmacist see our range of latest approved automatic digital machines.