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.
People can use specific medications to treat high blood presure. Doctors will often recommend a low dose at first. Antihypertensive medications will usually only have minor side effects.
Eventually, people with High blood presure may need to combine two or moreTrusted Source drugs to manage their blood pressure.
Medications for high blood presure include:
- diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- beta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- calcium-channel blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
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:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
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)
- 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
If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps now to lower your risk for the condition and its complications.
Add fruits and vegetables to your diet
Slowly work your way up to eating more servings of heart-healthy plants. Aim to eat more than seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Then aim to add one more serving per day for 2 weeks. After those 2 weeks, aim to add one more serving. The goal is to have 10 servings of fruits and vegetablesTrusted Source per day.
Limit refined sugar
Try to limit the amount of sugar-sweetened foods, like flavored yogurts, cereals, and sodas, you eat on a daily basis. Packaged foods hide unnecessary sugar, so be sure to read labels.
Reduce sodium intake
People living with hypertension and those with an increased risk for heart disease may be advised by their doctor to keep their daily sodium intake between 1,500 milligrams and 2,300 milligrams per dayTrusted Source.
The best way to reduce sodium is to cook fresh foods more often and limit the amount of fast food or prepackaged food you eat, which can sometimes be very high in sodium.
Set weight loss goals
If your doctor has recommended you lose weight, talk with them about an optimal weight loss goal for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. This can be achieved through a more nutritious diet and increased physical exercise.
Employing the help of a trainer or fitness app, and possibly even a dietician, are all methods to help you learn how to make the best choices for your body and your lifestyle.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly
The best way to prevent complications and avoid problems is to recognize hypertension early.
Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your regular doctor appointments. This can help your doctor see any possible problems before the condition advances.
Complications of High Blood Pressure
According to the AHA, if left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to the following:
- Heart attack, angina, or both
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease or failure
- Peripheral artery disease
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction