This World Heart Day, supported by the World Heart Federation, learn how to stay on top of your heart health by keeping an eye on your blood pressure with our easy-to-follow guide.
As adults, it’s important that we take the steps needed to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure and avoid high blood pressure (also known as hypertension).
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. Although your arteries are stretchy to cope with your blood pressure going up and down, if you have high blood pressure, your arteries lose their stretchiness and become stiff or narrow. The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material to clog them up.
Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day and night, and it’s normal for it to go up while you’re moving about. It’s when your overall blood pressure is consistently high, even when you’re resting, that you need to do something about it.
What is hypertension?
High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension. It means your blood pressure is consistently too high and that your heart must work harder to pump blood around your body.
If you ignore it, it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke and it can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, problems with your sight and vascular dementia.
What are the causes of hypertension?
There isn’t always an explanation for the cause of hypertension, but most people develop it because of their diet, lifestyle, or medical condition.
Your ethnicity, family history and age may also be significant factors. People living in deprived areas are at higher risk of having high blood pressure, and it is also more common if you are of black African or black Caribbean descent.
According to our Matron, Ali Turner, the factors below can also increase your risk of developing hypertension:
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Being overweight
• Not doing enough exercise
• Eating too much salt
These factors also accelerate atherosclerosis, which is the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries. Learn more about vascular disease (atherosclerosis).
In a small number of people, the cause of high blood pressure can be identified. Doctors sometimes call this secondary hypertension. For example, an abnormal production of hormones from the adrenal glands can lead to high blood pressure. If your doctor gives you treatment for the hormonal condition, your blood pressure should then return to normal.
How can I manage my blood pressure?
But, don’t worry, you may still be able to improve your blood pressure by changing your diet and being active, says Ali.
Prevention is also key, small lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs or reducing your intake of saturated fats helps. Learn how to lower your heart age.
Watch your waist size
An increased waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women has a direct link to an increased blood pressure and poor cardiac outcomes.
Eating a sensible diet and staying active with even gentle exercise on a regular basis will help us to stay at a healthy weight and improve our fitness levels. Check out our article on the Wellness Solution Plate.
Know your blood pressure numbers
Research carried out by Benenden Health found that 30 million adults in the UK could be at risk of serious health issues because they don’t check their blood pressure.
The research found that as many as six in ten adults don’t know their own blood pressure reading, and a quarter don’t even realise what blood pressure is.
A quarter of respondents (26%) said they wouldn’t visit a GP even if they showed symptoms of high or low blood pressure, such as headaches, blackouts and dizziness. The research also found that a fifth (20%) of these said they would be put off by lengthy waiting times. One in five also said they felt it wouldn’t be important enough to seek medical support.
The study also showed that around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure and many don’t even realise it. As a result, more than five million people are unaware of their increased risk of potentially deadly health conditions.
Get on top of your heart health
If you’re experiencing symptoms, or have concerns about your blood pressure, our expert cardiology specialists offer a range of tests and scans, from 24 hour blood pressure monitoring and heart monitoring to CT angiogram. It’s easy to make an appointment; you can ask your Consultant or give us a call on 01580 363 595.
Published on 29 September 2021