How’s your blood pressure?

Is your blood pressure under 120/80mmHg? If you don’t know your numbers, here’s why it really matters.

  • According to Blood Pressure UK (the Blood Pressure Association), every day in the UK, 350 people have a stroke or heart attack that could have been prevented. 
  • 1 in 2 strokes and heart attacks are the result of high blood pressure.
  • 1 in 2 adults with high blood pressure doesn’t know they have it or aren’t receiving treatment. 
  • 6 million people in the UK alone have high blood pressure and don’t know it. 
  • £2.1 billion – that’s how much high blood pressure costs the NHS every year.

When you know your numbers [note there is an awareness day event Know Your Numbers, which takes place in September every year], you are then able to take steps to get yours back in control if you need to.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force, or pressure, that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels. This pressure ensures a steady flow of blood into, and out of, all the organs of the body.

Keeping blood pressure within normal limits is vital.

If it is too high (hypertension), blood vessels can be damaged, causing clots, and rupture, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. If it is too low (hypotension), blood flow to the tissues may be inadequate, which is potentially very dangerous – especially if this were to affect the brain, kidneys or heart.

How do I know I have blood pressure problems?

High or low blood pressure does not always cause symptoms.

Pubescent girls, young, slim women, pregnant women and gaunt, older people are most frequently affected by low blood pressure. It can be a result of dehydration, which is particularly common in older people.

If you experience symptoms of low blood pressure (see below), and they occur frequently or very suddenly, you should get the cause clarified by your doctor.

High blood pressure or hypertension, which is more common than low blood pressure, not only affects older people. Young adults and even children can also suffer from it. What is particularly worrying is that many people affected do not know they are ill.

What causes high blood pressure?

There are many causes of hypertension. In most cases, an unhealthy diet and lifestyle are major contributory factors.

The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age. Over the years, the blood vessels lose their elasticity and become stiffer. Often, only the upper blood pressure value (systolic pressure) is elevated in older people – this is also considered high blood pressure, which is usually treated with medication.

These days, more and more children also develop high blood pressure. In children, the main causes are being overweight and too little exercise. Maintaining a normal weight and doing the daily physical activity are the best ways to protect children from high blood pressure and its consequences.

In adulthood, it affects men more often than women. About one in five men between the ages of 40 and 49 has high blood pressure. From the age of 60 onwards, women catch up. This is usually caused by menopause, when levels of the hormone that lowers blood pressure, oestrogen, begin to fall. Women can also develop high blood pressure during pregnancy or by taking the contraceptive pill.

In rare cases, high blood pressure is the result of another disease. This is usually a kidney disease, hormone disorder or vascular disease. If this other condition can be treated successfully, blood pressure usually returns to normal.

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ringing in the ears / Tinnitus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to the weather
  • Low mood

​What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Most people show hardly any clear symptoms of high blood pressure, so it often goes unnoticed for a long time. That’s why it’s often referred to as a ‘silent disease’. It is, therefore, important to take possible signs of high blood pressure seriously and see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches (especially in the morning)
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Ringing in the ears / Tinnitus
  • Nose bleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Redness in the face
  • Nausea

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