National Know Your Numbers Week
The 18-24 September is National Know Your Numbers Week, a campaign created by Blood Pressure UK. It is the UK’s largest blood pressure testing- and awareness event. Knowing your numbers encourages people to have their blood pressure measured, which will give a reflection on their current health status, so the necessary steps to maintain a healthy blood pressure can be taken.
According to Public Health England, over 5 million people are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, and it affects more than 1 in 4 adults and is one of the biggest risk factors for premature death and disability in England. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured because there aren’t any obvious symptoms.
High blood pressure can lead to diseases like heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and chronic kidney disease.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which blood pushes against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) at a consistently higher level than what’s recommended. This will put strain on the arteries and the heart, which may lead to other cardiovascular diseases.
Who’s at risk?
- Age – the older a person is, the greater the risk of hypertension
- Gender – women tend to have lower blood pressure than men up to 65 years, and higher 65-74 years of age
- Ethnic background – people of African and Caribbean origin have an increased risk
- Social deprivation – people from the most deprived areas have an increased risk than those from the least deprived
- Lifestyle – smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excess dietary salt, obesity and lack of exercise are linked with hypertension
- Anxiety and emotional stress
- Family history
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers; the systolic pressure (when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (when the heart relaxes between beats). These are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
For example, a reading of “110 over 80” means that the systolic pressure is 110 mmHg and the diastolic pressure is 80 mmHg.
High blood pressure is suspected when blood pressure is consistently equal or above 140/90 mmHg, whereas low blood pressure is anything below 90/60 mmHg.
What can I do to reduce the risk of high blood pressure?
- Diet – reduce consumption of coffee and other caffeine-rich products. Keep dietary salt intake low, either by reducing or substituting salt and maintain a low-fat, balanced diet.
- Stress management – get a good night’s sleep (at least 6 hours), avoid the triggers and seek help when needed.
- Smoking – support can be provided to help stop smoking.
- Alcohol consumption – reduce intake if drinking excessively
- Exercise aids in weight loss and will also help lower your blood pressure which will keep your heart and blood vessels in a good condition
If your blood pressure is high and remains so or isn’t significantly reduced after these lifestyle changes, your doctor would likely prescribe you blood pressure lowering medications to help to control it and to reduce the risk of further complications.
For more information visit the Blood Pressure UK web pages.