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What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?

You've probably heard of blood pressure, especially in the context of high blood pressure but what does it actually mean?

In a nutshell, blood pressure is the measurement for the pressure of your blood as it moves through your arteries.

When this gets too high, it’s called high blood pressure or hypertension. And this is lead to further implications. In fact, high blood pressure is responsible for 20 percent of heart attacks and 50 percent of strokes. 

More than a quarter of people have high blood pressure in the UK, according to the NHS. So it's important to know how to find out your reading and what you can do to keep your blood pressure under control.

There’s no way to know if you’ve got high blood pressure without getting it tested. This means it often goes undiagnosed for a long time. It’s estimated there are 7 million people in the UK who don’t realise they have hypertension. It’s no surprise it’s called the ‘silent killer’.

If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, go and see your GP or visit your local fitness instructor team. If you’re over 40 you may be able to get tested at a pharmacy. You can also buy your own machine if you want to keep track of your blood pressure at home.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

There’s no way to know if you’ve got high blood pressure without getting it tested. This means it often goes undiagnosed for a long time. It’s no surprise hypertension or high blood pressure is called the ‘silent killer’.

If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, go and see your GP or visit your local fitness instructor team. Once you’re over 40, you may be able to get tested at a pharmacy. Or buy your own machine if you want to keep track of your blood pressure at home.

What should your blood pressure reading be?

There are two readings when you take your blood pressure:

Systolic: the pressure in the arteries when the heart is contracting
Diastolic: the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing

Blood pressure readings are stated in a certain format. For example, 120 over 80. The first number is systolic pressure and the second diastolic. See our table below for what constitutes healthy and unhealthy blood pressures.

Blood Pressure Reading

What this means

Less than 120 over 80

Normal Blood Pressure: Your blood pressure is normal and healthy

Between 121-139 over 81 -89

Pre Hypertensive: Your blood pressure is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it

140 over 90 (over a number of weeks)

Hypertension: You have high blood pressure and you should try to lower it

180 over 110 (over a number of weeks)

Severe Hypertension: you have very high blood pressure and may need medication to lower it

How to lower your blood pressure

Thankfully, there are things you can do to lower your blood pressure without taking medication.

Cut down on salt and saturated fat

Junk food and food loaded with saturated fat are linked with high blood pressure, so try and make healthier food swaps.

If you're a fan of salt, switch to a low sodium version. Sodium found in salt is linked with high blood pressure and can aggravate the condition. It's worth also being wary of processed foods and pre-packaged meals as these may be high in salt (and pack in the calories). 

Eating foods high in saturated fat can lead to weight gain, which again can make you more vulnerable to high blood pressure. 

Salt
Fish

Eat more fruit, veg, nuts, oily fish,seeds and wholegrains

It goes without saying that fruit and veg is a welcome addition to your diet but nuts, seeds and wholegrains can also help when it comes to blood pressure maintenance.

Fruit and veg provide potassium, which helps balance out the negative effects of salts in the body and kidneys flush it out. Nuts, seeds and green leafy veg contain magnesium, which is known to help the blood vessels relax and encourage blood flow, so less pressure is put on the body's vital organs. And Omega 3s, found in fish, nuts and seeds, can help lower your blood pressure. 

 

Get active

As mentioned above, being overweight can increase your blood pressure so staying active and maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risks.

So find an activity you enjoy, this could be anything from fitness classes to swimming. Why not grab a friend and stay healthier for longer by working out together?

Exercise