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What is high blood pressure?

What is high blood
pressure?

Diet and high blood pressure

Diet and high blood
pressure

Coping with your diagnosis

Coping with your
diagnosis

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Getting tested

Five reasons to have a blood pressure test

It's a good idea to see your GP about having your blood pressure checked if any of these apply to you:

1. I'm worried I have risk factors for high blood pressure.

2. My family has a history of high blood pressure.

3. I drink heavily or smoke.

4. I'm overweight and I don't take regular exercise.

5.  I have an existing health problem such as diabetes, high cholesterol or kidney problems.

Find out more about the effects of smoking and how to get help with quitting.

Know your number

Monitoring your blood pressure at home is a good way to keep an eye on it.  Home monitoring can help you feel more in control of your blood pressure, giving you a good idea of how it varies during your everyday life and how well your treatments and lifestyle changes are working. Make a habit of knowing your blood pressure because it is likely to rise as you age.

Because it has no symptoms, it's natural to feel quite shocked and worried if you find out you have high blood pressure. But try to look on it as good news that your high blood pressure has been identified - because now it can be fixed.

You can talk about all the possible ways to bring down your blood pressure with your doctor, and decide what is best for you.

If your blood pressure is only slightly raised, some simple lifestyle changes such as  cutting down your salt intake, eating more healthily and being more physically active, may be all that’s needed to lower it.

If lifestyle changes aren’t going to be enough on their own to help keep your blood pressure under control, your doctor can prescribe one or a combination of a wide range of medicines available.

Family laughing

How does high blood pressure progress?

If high blood pressure isn't tackled it will continue to put a strain on your heart and blood vessels and that can lead to serious problems in the future such as a heart attack or stroke.

By taking action now, by making healthy lifestyle changes and possibly taking medication too, you should be able to get your blood pressure back down to a much healthier level, avoid those potential complications and lead a completely normal life.

Complications of high blood pressure

If untreated, high blood pressure can put you at risk of developing some serious health conditions, such as heart attack and stroke which can be life-threatening. These are known together as cardiovascular disease.

  1. Cardiovascular disease

    Several types of cardiovascular disease are linked to high blood pressure, including these serious conditions:

    • stroke - where the blood supply to the brain is interrupted;
    • heart attack - where the blood supply to the heart is blocked;
    • blood clot (thrombosis) – occurring within a blood vessel;
    • aneurysm - caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall, which forms a dangerous bulge in the blood vessel.

  2. Kidney disease

    High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your kidneys and stop them from working properly. This can cause a number of symptoms, including:

    • swollen ankles, feet or hands;
    • shortness of breath;
    • blood and/or protein in your urine;
    • urinating more often, particularly at night (nocturia);
    • itchy skin.

    Kidney disease can be treated using a combination of medication and dietary supplements. More serious cases may need dialysis (a treatment where waste products are artificially removed from the body) or a kidney transplant.

SHS086 Date of preparation May 2013

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