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Blood pressure

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is measured as two numbers e.g. 120/80. The first figure (the systolic pressure) is a measure of the pressure when your heart is contracting and actively pushing out blood. The second figure (the diastolic pressure) is the pressure when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.

A normal blood pressure for a young person would be 120/80.  For someone older e.g. 50 years of age, a normal blood pressure is 140/90.


Hypertension

The blood pressure in an individual can change from minute to minute. It’s normal for blood pressure to increase when you exert yourself, feel stressed or anxious. But consistently high blood pressure is known as “hypertension” and can have serious health implications if it is not controlled.

The risks

People with uncontrolled high blood pressure are at greater than normal risk of developing:

  • Strokes
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye problems
  • Circulation problems

You are more likely to develop hypertension if you:

  • Are obese
  • Drink a lot of alcohol
  • Eat a lot of salt
  • Are under a lot of stress.
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure.

The symptoms

Contrary to popular belief, raised blood pressure (hypertension) seldom causes any symptoms at all. This means that it often goes undetected until complications develop in e.g. the arteries, kidneys, brain, eyes etc.

As hypertension is symptomless it is advisable to have your blood pressure regularly checked so that advice or treatment can be started before complications arise.

Treatment

If high blood pressure is detected, further tests may be needed, for example urine test, a blood test, an ECG, a chest X-ray and eye checks.

Certain lifestyle changes will also be recommended such as to:

  • Stop smoking
  • Lose any excess weight
  • Cut down on salt, fat and alcohol

Drugs may also be prescribed to keep the high blood pressure under control.