What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is defined as the amount of force applied to the walls of your arteries as blood passes through them. This pressure is measured in two ways: systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number).

A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80.

High blood pressure

is defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher over a period of several weeks. This is known in medical terms as hypertension.

Some doctors consider 140/90 to be a ‘mild’form of high blood pressure. Instead they consider a reading of 160/100 a sign of high blood pressure which then requires treatment to lower it.

However, if you have a consistent reading of 140/90 then your GP will want to monitor this on a regular basis. Your GP will also ask you about your lifestyle and may recommend a few changes.

Dangers of high blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure then this means that your heart is working twice as hard to pump blood around your body. In the long term this causes damage to your heart or arteries which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

You also have an increased risk of other serious illnesses such as kidney failure, glaucoma and some forms of dementia (e.g. vascular dementia).

If your high blood pressure remains at a constantly high level then you are at risk of these and many other illnesses.

High blood pressure is hereditary. If someone in your family has high blood pressure then you are likely to develop it.

A problem with high blood pressure is that it doesn’t usually present any signs or symptoms. You may have high blood pressure but unless you feel ill with it or have any symptoms then you will not realise this.

But some people do exhibit symptoms although these only occur in rare cases of very high blood pressure.

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