Understanding Blood Pressure
The pressure in your heart and circulatory system affects all aspects of your physical health. It's important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, especially as you get older.
Blood pressure is normally written as two numbers with a slash between them (i.e. 120/70mmHg). The first number represents the pressure in your heart when it contracts, pushing blood out. This is known as systolic pressure. The second number is diastolic pressure, which represents the pressure in your heart between heartbeats.
Your ideal blood pressure naturally increases as you get older. Your weight, gender, and diet are other factors used to determine what your normal blood pressure should be.Most people are within the normal range if their blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, regardless of age.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Around one-third of adults in the UK have abnormally high blood pressure (above 140/99mmHg). It's slightly more common in men than women but can affect anyone at any age. It's a preventable condition that can be controlled with medication and changes to your diet.
Symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, nausea, red complexion, chest pain and fatigue. It is often called the 'silent killer', as most people only develop symptoms after damage has occurred to the heart and blood vessels. It's the third biggest risk factor for premature deaths in the UK. This is why it's important to keep track of your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke and heart disease; getting it under control should be a top priority.
Being overweight and consuming too much salt increase your risk of developing high blood pressure; if you have high blood pressure, you will probably need to make some changes to your lifestyle and eating habits. You may be advised to quit smoking, cut back on booze and get more to help lower to blood pressure to within the normal range.
Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
Low blood pressure (below 90/600mmHg) is significantly less common than high blood pressure. Symptoms include feeling light-headed, nauseous and confused. It can cause some people to faint if left untreated. Low blood pressure is often linked to an underlying medical condition like diabetes or heart disease.
A majority of people don't experience any symptoms and may not realise that their blood pressure is low until they visit their doctor. Low blood pressure can be treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
Everyone over 40 should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years. This usually means visiting your GP surgery or local pharmacy. If you're aged between 40 and 47, you may be entitled to a free NHS Health Check, which will include a blood pressure test. Alternatively, you could buy a home blood pressure monitor. Ensure that it's validated by the British Hypertension Society (BHS), as some products on the market can be unreliable.