National Know Your Numbers Week

22 September, 2017

This week is National Know Your Numbers Week, a campaign created by Blood Pressure UK (the UK’s largest blood pressure testing and awareness event). This year’s theme is STOP stroke; encouraging people to have their blood pressure measured, which will give a reflection on their current health status, so the necessary steps to maintain a healthy blood pressure can be taken.

High blood pressure is responsible for approximately 60% of strokes and can also lead to heart disease, vascular dementia and chronic kidney disease. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured as there aren’t any obvious symptoms – hence the name “silent killer”.

 

What is High Blood Pressure?

 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which blood pushes against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) at a consistently higher level than what’s recommended. This will put strain on the arteries and the heart, which may lead to other cardiovascular diseases.

 

How is it measured?

 

Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers…

  • The systolic pressure:
    The peak pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries as blood pumps away from the heart. The walls of the arteries expand as the blood is forced through them.
  • The diastolic pressure:
    The pressure exerted as the heart relaxes between beats and then refills with blood.

 

These are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

For example, a reading of “110 over 80” means that the systolic pressure is 110 mmHg and the diastolic pressure is 80 mmHg.

High blood pressure is suspected when blood pressure is consistently equal or above 140/90 mmHg, whereas low blood pressure is anything below 90/60 mmHg.

 

Who’s at risk?1

 

  • Age – the older a person is, the greater the risk of hypertension
  • Gender – women tend to have lower blood pressure than men up to 65 years, and higher 65-74 years of age
  • Ethnic background – people of African and Caribbean origin have an increased risk
  • Social deprivation – people from the most deprived areas have an increased risk than those from the least deprived
  • Lifestyle – smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excess dietary salt, obesity and lack of exercise are linked with hypertension
  • Anxiety and emotional stress
  • Family history

 

What can I do to reduce the risk of high blood pressure?2

 

  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight (if you are overweight, losing 10kg can reduce your BP by about 5mmHg).
  • Stop smoking.
  • Refrain from adding salt during/after cooking (lowering salt intake by 5g a day can lower BP by 5mmHg. Aim for less than 6g a day).
  • Regular moderate-intensity exercise.
  • Diabetics or those diagnosed with high BP, must be under GP care.
  • Healthy use of alcohol. Men and Women are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week. This is to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level. If you do drink as much as 14 units a week it is best to spread this evenly across the week.

 

If your blood pressure is high and remains so or isn’t significantly reduced after these lifestyle changes, your doctor would likely prescribe you blood pressure lowering medications to help to control it and to reduce the risk of further complications.

 

1https://goo.gl/t7LMKT
2https://goo.gl/29HLFy

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