H igh blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.

Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure (hypertension) rarely has obvious symptoms, and usually catches people by surprise when they land in hospital.

Hypertension Risk Factors
Hypertension risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol and smoking. Other risk factors for high blood pressure are, if you:

• have a relative with high blood pressure
• are of African or Caribbean descent
• eat a lot of salt
• don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
• don’t do enough exercise
• drink a lot of coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
• are aged over 65

If you fall into any of the groups listed above, consider making changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk of high blood pressure. Also consider having your blood pressure checked more often.

What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways. The condition itself usually has no signs or symptoms. You can have it for years without knowing it. During this time, though, HBP can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.

How to know if you have High Blood Pressure
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if their blood pressure becomes dangerously high.The only way of knowing there is a problem is to have your blood pressure measured (at least once a year) at a clinic or a doctor. Some pharmacies also offer the facility. Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you’re feeling fine after all, prevention is better than cure.

How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures -as systolic (sis-TOL-ik) and diastolic (di-ah-STOL-ik) pressures.

• systolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
• diastolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats

For example, if your doctor or nurse says your blood pressure is “140 over 90”, or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg. You are said to have high blood pressure if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher.
A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal. (But this depends on age)

Characteristics of Blood Pressure
Blood pressure doesn’t stay the same all the time. It becomes lower when you sleep and it gets higher when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you’re excited, nervous, or active. Blood pressure tends to rise with age. People who have high blood pressure can take steps to control it and reduce their risk for related health problems, working together with a health care professional.

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