Your blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (which is written as mmHg) and is recorded as systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure, for example, 120/70 mmHg.
Ongoing high blood pressure damages the blood vessels, especially if you also have raised blood cholesterol or diabetes, or if you smoke.
If blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, a heart attack or stroke may occur. High blood pressure is also linked to kidney and eye damage and poor circulation in the arteries of the legs.
In most people with high blood pressure, there is no obvious cause. This is called essential hypertension. Risk factors for essential hypertension are:
The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing high blood pressure.
About 10% of high blood pressure cases are due to an underlying problem or condition and are known as secondary causes.
This includes causes such as:
All adults should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Most people with high blood pressure do not get any symptoms so you need to get it checked to know if you have it. You can have your blood pressure checked by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
How often will depend on your age, whether you are taking any medications and your general health. Regular checks are especially important for:
If you have low blood pressure, you may feel light-headed, faint or dizzy on standing up.
To diagnose high blood pressure, you need to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They will often take several readings over weeks or months to see what the trend is.
Sometimes your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will suggest 24-hour blood pressure monitoring. This involves wearing a blood pressure unit for up to 24 hours to collect a series of blood pressure and heart rate readings at different times of the day and night.
24-hour blood pressure monitoring Heart Foundation
For mild high blood pressure, adopting the self-care steps listed below such as stopping smoking, eating a balanced diet, less salt, less alcohol and becoming more physically active may be all that is needed.
For moderate to severe high blood pressure, you are likely to need medication as well as working hard at these self-care measures.
Medications can help control high blood pressure and reduce the damage from high blood pressure, but they do not cure it. Usually, medication will need to be taken for life, unless losing weight and the lifestyle changes are so successful that your blood pressure returns to normal levels without medication.There a variety of medicines that can be used to lower blood pressure each of these groups of medicines works differently. Often two or three medications are needed and it may take time to find the right combination and dosage. It is important to let your doctor or pharmacist know about any side effects you may have and to follow instructions carefully.
Examples of medicines to treat blood pressure:
Read more about medicines to treat blood pressure.
Because high blood pressure puts you at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, you may also be prescribed other medicines to help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, such as:
Dash eating plan to lower high blood pressureHigh blood pressure personal stories Health Talk onlineHigh Blood Pressure Heart Foundation NZHigh Blood Pressure NHS ChoicesFamily health history Learn Genetics (Genetic Science Learning Centre), University of Utah, USA, 2015High blood pressure & the cardiovascular system Watch, Learn, Live: Interactive Cardiovascular Library – American Heart Association