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Managing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Gwyn Williams
May 17, 2023 11:30:00 PM

Managing high blood pressure (hypertension) is important because it is a major risk factor for a number of serious health problems. When blood pressure is consistently high, it can lead to damage to the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other cardiovascular problems.

As many as 5 million adults in the UK have undiagnosed high blood pressure. These people do not have regular tests and do not know they are at high risk. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. 

How can I find out if I have high blood pressure?

Many pharmacies in England now offer free NHS blood pressure checks for eligible people. If you're eligible, why not visit your local pharmacy to book an appointment? 

Free NHS blood pressure checks are available from participating pharmacies in England for the following people:

  • Adults who are 40 years old or over, who do not have a current diagnosis of high blood pressure.
  • Patients, by exception, under the age of 40 who request the service because they have a recognised family history of high blood pressure may be provided the service at the pharmacist’s discretion.
  • Patients between 35 and 39 years old who are approached about or request the service may be tested at the pharmacist’s discretion.
  • Adults specified by a general practice for the measurement of blood pressure.

The following people are not eligible for this service:

  • People who are unable to give consent to participate.
  • People under the age of 40 years old, unless at the discretion of the pharmacist or unless they have been specified by a general practice for the measurement of blood pressure.
  • People who have their blood pressure regularly monitored by a healthcare professional, unless the general practice requests the service is provided for the patient. 

Where can I find out more about high blood pressure and how to manage it?

The NHS provides reliable information to help people manage their health. The following is an extract from the NHS website:

"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.

Around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it.

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

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

They're both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg (or an average of 135/85mmHg at home) – or 150/90mmHg (or an average of 145/85mmHg at home) if you're over the age of 80
  • ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while the target for over-80s is below 150/90mmHg (or 145/85mmHg at home)

Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

Everyone's blood pressure will be slightly different. What's considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.

Risks of 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:

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

Check your blood pressure

The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.

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.

You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:

  • at your GP surgery
  • at some pharmacies
  • as part of your NHS Health Check
  • in some workplaces

You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.

Find out more about getting a blood pressure test

Things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure

It's not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk.

You might be more at risk if you:

  • are overweight
  • 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
  • are over 65
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • are of black African or black Caribbean descent
  • live in a deprived area

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

Treatment for high blood pressure

Doctors can help you keep your blood pressure to a safe level using:

  • lifestyle changes
  • medicines

What works best is different for each person.

Talk to your doctor to help you decide about treatment.

This patient decision aid (PDF, 132kb) can also help you to understand your treatment options.

Lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure

These lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:

  • reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
  • cut back on alcohol 
  • lose weight if you're overweight
  • exercise regularly
  • cut down on caffeine
  • stop smoking

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

Medicines for high blood pressure

If you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend taking 1 or more medicines to keep it under control.

These come as tablets and usually need to be taken once a day.

Common blood pressure medicines include:

The medicine recommended for you will depend on things like how high your blood pressure is, your age and your ethnicity.

Page last reviewed: 23 October 2019
Next review due: 23 October 2022                                                                                                                    "

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