High blood pressure: the silent killer. Could you have it?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

More than 1 in 4 adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it. According to figures from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), four million people under 65 in the UK are living with untreated high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease and more.

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

Check your blood pressure

All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every 5 years. 

Getting this done is easy and could save your life. Find out where you can get your blood pressure checked locally with the BHF. You can also get your blood pressure tested at your GP practice, some pharmacies, as part of your NHS health check and in some work places.

Causes of high blood pressure

It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but certain things can increase your risk.

You’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you:

  • are over the age of 65
  • are overweight
  • are of African or Caribbean descent
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • do not do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke
  • do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.

Reduce your blood pressure

High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by:

  • cutting back on salt
  • eating healthily  
  • lowering your alcohol intake 
  • losing weight if you are overweight
  • exercising regularly
  • cutting down on caffeine
  • stopping smoking
  • aiming at having at least 6 hours of sleep each night

For tips on how to reduce your blood pressure, visit the NHS website.

Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take 1 or more medicines to stop their blood pressure getting too high.

Speak to your GP or a pharmacist if you are concerned about your blood pressure, want to get it checked or would like further information on reducing your blood pressure.


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