High blood pressure: The only way to find out if you have it – and how to combat it

Rarely noticeable condition that affects a third of adults can put extra strain on the body as well as increase the risk of serious health problems

Around a third of adults have high blood pressure

Around a third of adults have high blood pressure, with many of us not even knowing we have it.

As a result it’s important to get it checked regularly, even if you feel absolutely fine.

While the British Heart Foundation (BHF) says high blood pressure ‘rarely has noticeable symptoms’, the following can be a sign of the condition:

Academic medical center Mayo Clinic, based in the US, warns: “Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.”

The NHS says the only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to get it checked.

Anyone over the age of 40 is advised to book a reading at least every five years.

The Cleveland Clinic explains a blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers – one ‘systolic’ and the other ‘diastolic’.

It says: “The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats or contracts. While the bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on your blood vessels between beats when your heart is relaxing.”

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Anyone over the age of 40 is advised to book a blood pressure reading at least every five years.
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As a general guide:

  • High blood pressure is deemed to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)

  • Ideal blood pressure is usually said to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

What can I do to bring my blood pressure down?

It is widely agreed that dietary changes may help reduce blood pressure.

It is important to focus on maintaining a balanced diet, which draws on proteins from a variety of different sources.

The NHS says: “Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

“This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

“Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fibre.”

The health body continues: “A diet high in salt (or sodium) can cause raised blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Some foods are almost always high in salt because of the way they are made.”

Blood Pressure UK explains: “Salt makes your body hold onto water. If you eat too much, the extra water in your blood means there is extra pressure on your blood vessel walls, raising your blood pressure.”

The charity adds it’s sensible to limit alcohol and to lose weight if you need to.

Also, try not to consume a lot of caffeine and quit smoking.

Blood Pressure UK also says physical activity is a great way to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease and bring down blood pressure and cholesterol.

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