What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a condition also known as hypertension where the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. It affects around one third of British adults. In fact, of this one third (18% of men and 13% of women) are estimated to suffer from hypertension but aren't receiving treatment for it.
|Blood Pressure Category
||less than 120
||less than 80
||120 - 139
||80 - 89
|Stage 1 Hypertension
||140 - 159
||90 - 99
|Stage 2 Hypertension
||160 or higher
||100 or higher
High blood pressure means the heart is forced to contract harder to circulate blood through the body, which can cause vessels to split, damage organs, and cause heart attacks and strokes.
How is high blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, which is called systolic pressure. Your diastolic pressure is measured in between beats, when the heart relaxes.
When blood pressure is measured, it's always presented as two numbers:
- The first number relates to the systolic pressure
- The second number is the diastolic pressure
If you have a high blood pressure, it will measure 140/90mm Hg or above and is classed as hypertensive. This means that the pressure of the blood against your vessels when the heart pumps is 140 and the pressure when the heart rests is 90.
Measuring blood pressure allows medical experts to understand the amount of pressure exerted on the artery walls when blood moves through them. It's important to monitor this, because you can only be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your results are consistently high.
It's important to note that if you have a diabetes or chronic kidney disease, your threshold of a normal blood pressure is a little lower. You'd be classed as hypertensive if your blood pressure exceeds 130/mm Hg.
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure can be split into two types; primary and secondary. Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause, but secondary hypertension is caused directly by an underlying health issue or as a side effect of some medications. Secondary blood pressure can be caused by health problems ranging from conditions that affect the body's tissue, such as lupus; to taking certain medications like ibuprofen; and to hormonal conditions, such as Cushing's syndrome.
Whilst primary blood pressure doesn't have a specific cause, there are many factors that can increase your risk of developing it:
- History of hypertension in the family (hereditary high blood pressure)
- Eating food that's high in fat or salt
- Not exercising enough
- Being stressed
- Being overweight
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Age (above 60 are more at risk)
- Smoking can lead to both heart disease and high blood pressure
What are high blood pressure symptoms?
High blood pressure is known as the 'silent killer' because it doesn't cause obvious symptoms. There are a number of ways your body will respond to high blood pressure that could be considered warnings. The only way to know for certain is to have your blood pressure checked by a doctor, who will be able to diagnose you accurately.
In very rare cases, high blood pressure symptoms will include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Shortness of breath
- Female sexual dysfunction
Risks associated with high blood pressure
High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can weaken your heart over time. It's important that you strive to lower your blood pressure because leaving hypertension untreated can damage your arteries, either causing a blockage or splitting them, which is known as haemorrhaging.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause a number of health problems. The kinds of cardiovascular diseases caused by hypertension include:
- Stroke - when blood supply to the brain is disturbed
- Heart attack - when blood supply to the heart is blocked
- Blood clot (also known as thrombosis) - clots within blood vessels
- Aneurysm - a bulge in a blood vessel caused by weakened walls
Pregnant women must have their blood pressure checked regularly, even if it isn't high. This is done to prevent the risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension, because it can lead to pre-eclampsia, where there is a problem with the placenta.
Benefits of treating high blood pressure
By addressing your blood pressure, you can significantly lower your chances of developing other health conditions such as heart disease and thrombosis. Due to the fact that there are often zero symptoms, it's always recommended to get your regularly tested by your GP.
You significantly lower your risk of a stroke or heart attack when you keep your blood pressure at healthy levels over the long-term. Also, chances of developing vascular dementia (where blood flow to the brain is reduced, causing it to become damaged) are lessened significantly when you treat your condition.
High blood pressure during pregnancy is something that often worries expectant mothers as it can sometimes lead to complications, so lowering it can bring you peace of mind. To learn more about high blood pressure in pregnancy, be sure to have a look at the information provided by the NHS.
- Reduced chance of developing other health conditions including heart disease and thrombosis.
- Reduced chance of developing vascular dementia (where blood flow to the brain is reduced, causing it to become damaged).
- Lowered risk of stroke or heart attack when your blood pressure is kept at healthy levels over the long-term.
What treatments are there for high blood pressure?
If your blood pressure is slightly higher than the ideal level of 120/80mmHg, it's likely that your doctor will advise you to make simple lifestyle changes to help reduce it. If your blood pressure sits above the indicator for hypertension, which stands at 140/90mmHg and is a medical risk, your doctor thinks you're at risk of developing heart disease in the next ten years, you'll be prescribed medication and advised to change your lifestyle to help lower your high blood pressure.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and your doctor may recommend it should they discover you're suffering from high blood pressure. Simple to follow, it offers practical advice to people who want to use diet, exercise and overall lifestyle changes to address their high hypotension.
The basic principles of the DASH diet for the treatment for high blood pressure are as follows:
- Eat more fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
- Cut back on saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans-fats
- Eat more whole-grain foods, fish, poultry, and nuts
- Limit salt (sodium), sugary drinks, confectionary, and red meats
In some clinical studies, people who went on the DASH diet managed to lower their blood pressure within 2 weeks.
There are various herbal treatments available to assist you in lowering your blood pressure. Whilst overall diet and exercise are very important in keeping your blood pressure at healthy levels, there have been no clinical trials that confirm the long-term effectiveness of specialist supplements, herbs or solutions.
In the short term, the following foods have been shown to lower blood pressure in some people:
Acupuncture, meditation, muscle relaxation and stress management have all been shown to effective in lowering blood pressure in some people. However, the results seen when using these techniques are often only small, and their ability to keep blood pressure lowered over a long period of time is not yet proven.
For these reasons, it is advisable that you combine complementary blood pressure treatments with prescription medication as prescribed by a doctor.
There are a few medications that you might be prescribed to help lower high blood pressure. Whilst these medications work in different ways they all have the same outcome, which is to relax and widen the blood vessels. This means that blood can flow more easily around the body, so the heart doesn't have to contract as hard, which lowers blood pressure.
The medications that are available and which help to lower high blood pressure include:
- Amlodipine, which blocks the transport of calcium into the muscle cells lining the arteries, and is prescribed to help prevent angina and lower cholesterol.
- Bendroflumethiazide, a thiazide diuretic, known as 'water tablets', which cut the amount of excess water in the body and reduce water retention.
- Lisinopril, inhibits the work of an enzyme that helps to control blood pressure, preventing the vessels from tightening. It is also prescribed to improve the symptoms of heart failure and boost survival after a heart attack.
- Ramipril, works in the same way as Lisinopril, but is also prescribed to help treat heart failure, prevent heart attacks and strokes and improve the kidney problems that are associated with diabetes.
- Sevikar HCT, which contains active ingredients to lower cholesterol and prevent angina (amlodipine), prevent the peripheral blood vessels from narrowing (olmesartan medoxomil) and reduce the kidneys' ability for water retention (hydrochlorothiazide).
Amlodipine, Bendroflumethiazide, Lisinopril and Ramipril are all available from HealthExpress.
Preventing high blood pressure
In terms of monitoring such a condition with potentially no symptoms, the Blood Pressure Association suggest getting your blood pressure checked once a year. Depending on if your blood pressure is increasing, you may need a check-up more frequently. You can get this measured at your GP practice, and even at your gym.
"Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that directly tackles the causes of hypertension can help to prevent high blood pressure; losing weight can be particularly beneficial."
How to reduce high blood pressure?
Once you've established if you have primary or secondary hypertension, you will be able to deal with hypertension in a number of ways.
Lifestyle changes will help alleviate primary hypertension. This could be anything from eating a healthier diet or reducing your salt intake to exercising more frequently. Secondary hypertension can be treated by changing the medication you're currently on, if it's considered to be a contributing factor.
The most highly recognised ways to prevent low blood pressure are to:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis
- Moderate your salt intake
- Ensure regular physical activity
- Drink within the recommended alcohol guidelines
- Stop smoking
By implementing positive changes in your lifestyle, you lessen the chance that you'll need to undertake treatment in the future.
Managing your diabetes
If you suffer from diabetes, then it's likely you'll also have high blood pressure. Approximately 25% of people with Type 1 diabetes and 80% of people with Type 2 fit this profile. Your GP may advise you on certain lifestyle changes to help keep your blood-sugar levels under control, will help reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
Your doctor may prescribe you with specific diabetes treatments, which can help you control both that and your blood pressure.
What HealthExpress can do for high blood pressure?
HealthExpress offers a wide range of prescription medications, specifically engineered to lower blood pressure in a safe and effective manner. Amlodipine, Bendroflumethiazide, Lisinopril and Ramipril can be obtained by completing our simple online consultation, which will be reviewed by one of our doctors.
The consultation process is simple and straightforward and is super fast to complete, and helps our partner Medical staff to see if the medication you've selected is the right one for you. Various different dosages are available, depending on your personal circumstances.