The pressure in your blood vessels is also known as blood pressure. This consists of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. We refer to systolic blood pressure when your heart contracts and pumps blood around your body. If your heart then relaxes and fills with blood again, we refer to it as diastolic blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure is most important when measuring your blood pressure. For example, you have high blood pressure if you have systolic blood pressure of 140 or higher. Systolic blood pressure of up to 150 is still healthy in people over the age of 70.
The cause of high blood pressure is usually not found. Older people are more likely to suffer from it than young people. Your blood vessels become narrower and stiffer with age, leading to higher blood pressure. There are also other factors which will influence your blood pressure, like:
- Heredity. High blood pressure is more common in some families.
- Eating too much and too greasy food.
- Eating too much liquorice.
- Eating too much salt.
- Taking the contraceptive pill.
- Certain medication, like naproxen, diclofenac, ibuprofen and prednison.
- Being overweight.
- Kidney disorders. Although this is rare.
You usually won’t notice high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is extremely high you may experience:
- Double or blurred vision.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- A headache.
- A nosebleed.
- Shortness of breath.
In addition, high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk of:
- A cerebral infarction.
- A stroke.
- A heart attack.
- Constricted blood vessels. This is due to calcification of the artery.
- Impaired vision.
- Kidney impairment.
Do you suspect you have high blood pressure, or would you like to know your blood pressure? Then you can easily measure it with an upper arm pressure monitor or a wrist blood pressure monitor. You can buy these from various websites, the chemist, or from your pharmacy. Is your blood pressure too high and do you want to take action yourself to lower it? Then we would recommend you:
- Stop smoking.
- Get plenty of daily exercise.
- Eat a healthy and varied diet.
- Don’t eat, or reduce the amount of, licorice.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Reduce your stress levels.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s good to be aware of this. You should always contact your GP if:
- You become dizzy or feel like you might faint.
- Your vision is impaired.
- You have a bad headache.
- You’re starting to feel more unwell.
- You often suffer from nosebleeds.
- You have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart failure and/or kidney failure.
Your GP will then discuss your symptoms and the risks of cardiovascular diseases with you. He or she will then determine whether you need medication for your high blood pressure. Your GP can also help you to create a healthy lifestyle or lose weight. You will then have regular appointments with your GP to discuss the results of the advice you have followed up. Your GP may also refer you to another specialist, such as a dietician or psychologist, if necessary.