High Blood Pressure

What does high blood pressure mean?

Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels between heartbeats when blood is pumped around your heart.

They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg or more if your reading was taken at a pharmacy, GP surgery or clinic (or an average of 135/85mmHg if it was taken at home)
  •  if you’re over the age of 80, high blood pressure is considered to be from 150/90mmHg or more if your reading was taken at a pharmacy, GP surgery or clinic (or an average of 145/85mmHg if it was taken at home)
  • ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while the target for people over the age of 80 years old is below 150/90mmHg (or 145/85mmHg if it was taken at home)

    Blood pressure readings from 121/81mmHg to 139/89mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

    Everyone’s blood pressure will be slightly different. What’s considered low or high for you may be normal for someone else.

    What are the risks with high blood pressure?

    If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

    Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:

    If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions.

    Things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure

    It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but there are things that can increase your risk.

    You might be more at risk if you:

    • are overweight
    • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
    • do not do enough exercise
    • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
    • smoke
    • have a lot of stress
    • are over 65 years old
    • have a relative with high blood pressure
    • are of black African or Black Caribbean descent
    • live in a deprived area


    Treatment options

    Lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure

    • reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
    • cut back on alcohol
    • lose weight if you’re overweight
    • exercise regularly
    • cut down on caffeine
    • stop smoking


    Medicines for high blood pressure

    ACE inhibitors – such as enalapril, lisinopril, perindopril and ramipril

    angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs) – such as candesartan, irbesartan, losartan, valsartan and olmesartan

    diuretics – such as indapamide and bendroflumethiazide

    beta blockers – such as atenolol and bisoprolol

    alpha blockers – such as doxazosin

    other diuretics – such as amiloride and spironolactone

    The medicine recommended for you will depend on things like how high your blood pressure is, your age and your ethnicity.


    Understanding your blood pressure reading

    If you have a recent blood pressure reading use the NHS Check your blood pressure tool to understand what your reading means. You’ll also get information about what to do next.

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