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Your health: High blood pressure – the silent killer

Next time you are walking down the High Street take a good look around. There’s a chance that at least 1 in 3 of you have high blood pressure. According to the BHF, nearly one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure and in England alone 6 in ten 65-74 year-olds have the condition.

Having high blood pressure puts you more at risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney disease because of the strain on your heart and arteries. A recent report showed that early deaths in Lincoln from heart disease and stroke are higher than the England average.

High blood pressure is symptomless most of the time and that’s why it’s called the silent killer. On rare occasions, when someone has very high blood pressure, they may experience persistent headaches, blurred or double vision, nosebleeds and shortness of breath. It’s important to visit your GP straight away if you have any of these symptoms.

So what is blood pressure? It’s the pressure of the blood against the walls of your arteries when it’s pumped out of your heart. To have your blood pressure checked, two measurements are taken. The first measurement (systolic) is taken when the heart pumps blood into the arteries and the second measurement (diastolic) is taken when the heart rests between beats. It will be written similar to this: 140/90mmHg.

You are said to have high blood pressure if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or higher. A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal. Blood pressure of 90/60mmHg or less is usually considered to be low.

What are some risk factors? A family history of high blood pressure, African or Caribbean descent, aged over 65, being overweight, too much salt, inactivity, not enough fruit and veg, drinking lots of caffeinated drinks and heavy drinking. Stress and smoking can temporarily increase blood pressure. If you smoke and have high blood pressure your arteries will become narrowed much quicker.

If you are in the risk category then it’s good to make changes now, before it’s too late. The higher your blood pressure goes, the shorter your life expectancy becomes. Do you know what your blood pressure is? If not, then why not get it checked?

NHS choices offers more advice on lowering your blood pressure