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Manage blood pressure

1. Why important to manage your high blood pressure? 

2. Six ways to manage blood pressure, cut in half your risk of heart diseases, avoid strokes and later dementia. 

[Time to read: 7 mins]

1. Why important to manage your blood pressure? Is it a killer?

1 person in every 4 adults has high blood pressure (BP) [32]. The Lancet (medical journal) 2020 report on global burden of disease says it contributes to 20% of all deaths, 50% of all heart diseases and 60% of all strokes.

John Maingay the director of policy at British Heart Foundation says, ” it is important that you get your blood pressure checked, especially if you have a family history of heart and blood vessels diseases”.

Blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers (e.g.120/80 mmHg) . The first number, systolic pressure, is the higher number and is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. So this is the important figure. It is the best marker of risks including artery diseases, kidney disease, angina and some dementias. Steps to reduce your risks are set out in 2, below.

In 2017 a USA review of new research shows that as many as 1 in 3 people can have high BP [37]. This can lead to heart diseases, strokes, dementia [43] and kidney diseases.

taking blood pressure
take blood pressure at home

Half those who have high BP are not receiving any treatment [33], and another 1 in 3 patients are not taking their pills often enough [28]. The person may not feel or see any clear symptoms of high blood pressure, which is why it is called the “silent killer”. So you have to use a blood pressure monitor to know if it is high.

One cause is your arteries hardening, which raises your BP. This in turn speeds up arteries hardening and leads to even higher BP.

If you have high BP, and manage to cut your systolic blood pressure (the higher figure) by 10 mm Hg, it almost cuts in half your chances of getting heart diseases and helps you avoid strokes [32] and later dementia [43].

image of small red heart

High BP has been a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. This means you must see your GP for treatment to bring it down, both lifestyle changes and possibly medication if advised by UK NHS.

image of small red heart

Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. So what do you do if your readings are over 130/80, but under 140/90?  New 2017 USA guideline from the American Heart Association & American College of Cardiology says, after analysis of 1000 recent research studies, inc. SPRINT 2015 [37], “BP over 130/80 is Stage 1 hypertension” (high blood pressure), and it needs action [35] – as follows.

2. Six ways to manage your blood pressure, cut in half risk of heart diseases, avoid strokes and dementia. 

2.1 If you think you are at risk, have a regular GP blood pressure test. Or buy your own blood pressure monitor and measure it at home. This can be more accurate, as it is easier to rest there calmly for the 5 minutes needed before each measurement. Make sure you choose a BP monitor that is reliable and validated. Regularly check your pulse (apps available). Normal resting heart pulse rate for adults is 60 to100 beats per minute. You could use a mobile app, often given with your BP monitor, to store your readings and present them to your doctor.

2.2 The UK NHS says to reduce your blood pressure if it is high, follow treatments your doctor recommends. And here are 12 extra ways to cut your blood pressure without drugs. Small changes improve your health [11, 18, 25].

healthy veg. diet

2.3 Improve your diet, more fruit and veg, more seafood, ‘omega-3’ fats, more nuts and seeds. Less salt and much less processed meats [31, 36]. Usually, eat less! With no second helpings.

2.4. If your blood pressure (BP) is over 130/80 but under 140/90 mm Hg, the new USA expert review by the American College of Cardiology and 9 other USA heart health groups decided that people in this BP range have “stage 1 high blood pressure”.  And are twice as likely to get heart and stroke diseases as those with a normal BP (120/80 mm Hg or less) [35].  So, take action to reduce your BP by talking with your doctor.

fitness man running
exercising to reduce BP

2.5 Lifestyle changes are recommended. If the patient has high risks for heart and stroke diseases, medication can be recommended as well [35].

NHS NICE has reviewed its UK guide to take some account of the new USA findings on BP (2.4, above). Its new Aug. 2019 BP guide recommends treatment for patients under the age of 80 with stage 1 high blood pressure if they have a 10-year heart and stroke diseases risk of 10% or more. However, unlike the new USA guidelines, NICE now defines stage 1 high blood pressure as being over 135/85 mm Hg, unlike the USA that has reduced it to ‘over 130/80′.

pointing finger2
pointer to actions

2.6 Actions: So discuss this issue with your doctor/GP and say which BP target you prefer! And put actions and targets you both agree in your personal health plan.

Also, see often asked questions on heart diseases & on strokes, and trusted NHS answers.

page updated 26 June 2022.  © 2022 social enterprise™ Ltd.

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