High blood pressure is a common condition among many people in the UK, with figures from Public Health England (PHE) revealing that it affects around one in four adults.1

Over five million people are unaware they have high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – with diseases caused by the condition estimated to cost the NHS over £2 billion every year, despite it being preventable and controllable to a certain extent.1

Overall, high blood pressure accounts for 12 per cent of all visits to GPs in England. By reducing the blood pressure of the nation as a whole, PHE estimates that £850 million of NHS and social care spend could be avoided over the next ten years.1

We have teamed up with British Heart Foundation who has the following tips on how to spot and manage high blood pressure and lead a healthier lifestyle.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries and you need a certain amount of pressure to keep the blood flowing around your body. Your heart pumps blood through the arteries, by contracting and relaxing.

Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers usually shown as one on top of the other and measured in mmHg (millimetres of mercury). If your blood pressure reading is 120 / 80mmHg your doctor or nurse may refer to it as “120 over 80”.

The first (or top) number represents the highest level that your blood pressure reaches when your heart contracts and pumps blood through your arteries – known as your systolic pressure. The second (or bottom) number represents the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats – your diastolic pressure.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, your blood pressure should be below 140 / 90. If you have heart and circulatory disease (such as coronary heart disease or stroke) or diabetes or kidney disease, then your blood pressure should be below 130 / 80.

High blood pressure means that it is constantly higher than the recommended level, and in England, nearly half of all patients being treated still have uncontrolled blood pressure.1

What are the risks?

High blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for premature death and disability in England. It significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

High blood pressure is not usually something that you can feel or notice, and it can go undiagnosed because there are usually no symptoms.1

Regardless, high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage, stroke or a heart attack. Therefore, it is important you get your blood pressure checked regularly. Check with your GP or nurse how often to get it checked.

How can I prevent or control it?

There are several ways to manage high blood pressure, lower it, and control it if you have already been diagnosed, including the following:

  • Regular physical activity – Try to do some moderate-intensity activity every day and build up to at least 150 minutes per week, in bouts of ten minutes or more.
  • Keep to a healthy weight – For some people, losing weight is all they need to do to get their blood pressure down to a normal level.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet – Use the Eatwell plate to guide the proportions you include from each food group. In particular, include a variety of fruit and vegetables.
  • Cut down on salt – Don’t cook with salt or add any to your food at the table, and cut down on processed foods, which contain a lot of salt.
  • Don’t drink too much – If you drink alcohol, stick within the recommended limits. No more than 14 units a week for both men and women2. 

Taking medication

If prescribed, it is really important to take your medications as directed. If you miss doses, it won’t work as effectively. Health care bodies including the NHS recommend that people attempt to make lifestyle changes before or alongside taking any medication.

The NHS states that most people who require blood pressure medication will need to take more than one type of medicine to control their blood pressure and that they may need to take it for the rest of their life.3

However, your doctor might be able to reduce or stop your treatment if your blood pressure stays under control for several years. In many cases, high blood pressure can be managed or even prevented by following the above advice and having an active, healthy lifestyle.

The British Heart Foundation is the UK’s largest heart charity and funder of cardiovascular research. For more information on how to boost heart health and creative ways to get your five a day, visit the BHF website. 

To find out more about how a cash plan from Sovereign Health Care can support your health and wellbeing, visit https://www.sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/personal/

1 Gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-figures-show-high-blood-pressure-costs-nhs-billions-each-year
2 Drink Aware https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/alcohol-limits-unit-guidelines/
3 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Blood-pressure-(high)/Pages/Treatment.aspx

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