High blood pressure (hypertension)

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in the arteries. The arteries are vessels that carry blood from the heart around the body.

There needs to be a certain level of pressure in the arteries to move blood around the body. But, if blood pressure is higher than recommended over time it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is usually diagnosed if your blood pressure is regularly above 140/90 mmHg.

Causes of high blood pressure

You may be more at risk from high blood pressure if you:

  • eat a high-fat diet
  • eat a high-salt diet
  • don’t exercise
  • are overweight
  • smoke
  • drink too much alcohol
  • are stressed
  • take some recreational drugs
  • are older – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
  • have a family history of high blood pressure
  • are of Afro-Caribbean or South Asian origin

For some people, a cause of high blood pressure is found. This can include:

If you’re worried that your medication is affecting your blood pressure, speak to a healthcare professional.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure often has no symptoms. So, if you think you may have high blood pressure, or you’re on medication for it, you should check your blood pressure regularly.

In rare cases, high blood pressure may cause symptoms.

Speak to your GP practice if:

You have symptoms of very high blood pressure like:

  • headaches
  • blurred or double vision
  • regular nosebleeds
  • shortness of breath

Monitoring your blood pressure

Some GP practices now will now provide you with a blood pressure monitor to take home. This is because:

  • your blood pressure can change throughout the day
  • anxiety or stress can raise your blood pressure

A home blood pressure monitor can be used to measure your blood pressure levels over time. You can can use the monitor at a time that suits you.

A healthcare professional may take blood and urine tests along with blood pressure checks. This is to check for conditions that can cause an increase in blood pressure like kidney disease.

Lifestyle changes

Making lifestyle changes can sometimes help if you have high blood pressure.

Do

  • regular exercise
  • reduce your alcohol intake
  • eat a healthy, low-fat diet
  • restrict your salt intake
  • try to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
  • drink less caffeine
  • try relaxation therapies like yoga and meditation

Don’t

  • do not take recreational drugs

Treatment for high blood pressure

Sometimes a combination of treatments is needed to treat high blood pressure. This means you may have to take more than one type of medication in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes.

The most common medications for high blood pressure are:

If you have high blood pressure, you may have to take medication to treat it for the rest of your life. But, the effect of medication and your lifestyle on your blood pressure should be monitored over time.

Risks of high blood pressure

If it’s left untreated, high blood pressure can cause problems including:


Last updated:
02 July 2024