know your numbers- the truth about high blood pressure

Know your numbers- High blood pressure

High blood Pressure

We all hear a lot about high blood pressure but it can be hard to understand exactly what high blood pressure actually means. When you measure blood pressure you measure the amount of pressure against the walls of your blood vessels. Our bodies pump blood around to these vessels and organs in order to spread oxygen rich blood to where it is needed.

You may not even realise that your blood pressure is higher than normal so it is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist to measure your blood pressure. The Irish Heart foundation estimates that over half of over 45s in Ireland have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for a heart attack or a stroke. If you have high blood pressure you are more likely to suffer from poor circulation, kidney failure or heart failure.

So what is a normal blood pressure reading? Normal blood pressure is usually referred to as 120/80. The top number is called the systolic reading and it records the pressure as the heart contracts. The bottom number is called the diastolic reading and it records the pressure as the heart relaxes. High blood pressure is any reading over 140/90 (or for diabetics over 140/80). However sometimes you may experience white coat high blood pressure so it is more accurate to get a few readings or to wear a 24 hour monitor.

People often ask us in the pharmacy “what causes high blood pressure?”. There can be different reasons for high blood pressure such as lifestyle choices but high blood pressure can often run in families. Some people get diagnosed with high blood pressure because they have symptoms such as headaches or issues with their vision but most people will never know they have high blood pressure until they get it measured. We don’t charge anything in our pharmacy to get your blood pressure measured so it is well worth taking a few minutes to get a blood pressure recording done and then we can advise you on the next steps to take.

There are some lifestyle changes that may help reduce your blood pressure:

  1. Lose weight- Being overweight is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Even losing 10% of your body weight can result in a decrease in your blood pressure reading.
  2. Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables and reduce the level of salt and processed food in your diet. It is important to know how much salt is in the foods that you buy. The irish Heart Association have a handy shopping card that helps translate food labels so you can understand the level of salt in the food. This can be accessed from the Irish Heart foundation website.
  3. Restrict your alcohol consumption to below the upper limits. This means less than 17 standard drinks for a man and no more than 11 standard drinks for a woman. You shouldn’t drink your entire weekly allowance on one evening and you should have some days completely alcohol free. Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your blood pressure and can damage your heart and liver.
  4. Try do 30 minutes exercise at least 5 days per week. If you can increase your exercise time to 60minutes can be even more beneficial.
  5. Finally ask what your blood pressure reading is? The more aware you are the more likely you are to keep your blood pressure under control.

There are other cardiovascular risk factors that you should keep under control if you have high blood pressure. These include; smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Please feel free to call into the pharmacy for advice if you are worried about your cardiovascular risk or that of a loved one. Knowledge is your power so learn your numbers today.