Leading local health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS), is using World Hypertension Day (17th May) to call on the public to educate themselves about the importance of checking their blood pressure as well as the health risks associated with the condition.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke and it is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ due to the fact there are no physical warning signs.
Fidelma Carter, Head of Public Health for NICHS says; “Over 270,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with high blood pressure, that’s 14% of the population. High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke, so it is vital the public is aware of the importance of monitoring their blood pressure.”
Blood pressure is a measure of the force the heart uses to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure is not a disease in itself but it can lead to an increased risk of other serious conditions.
Over time, high blood pressure puts pressure on the heart, making it work harder. High blood pressure slowly damages blood vessels by making them narrower and more rigid. It can also cause small tears and damage to the insides of the blood vessels. As the blood vessels become more damaged and rigid, the heart must work even harder to push the blood through the blood vessels and overall blood pressure rises further. It becomes easier for clots to get caught and for fatty debris to block the blood vessels. This can result in clots which may travel to the heart or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke as well as other conditions such as heart failure and dementia.
Fidelma explains; “The only way to know your blood pressure is to have it measured. It is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked at least every 5 years, however, if you are at greater risk due to factors such as a family history of high blood pressure, you may wish to get it checked more regularly. People with type 2 diabetes should have their blood pressure checked annually. To get your blood pressure checked, make an appointment with your GP or buy a blood pressure machine for home monitoring.”
“Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury or mmHg. High blood pressure is indicated when readings begin to rise above the levels of 140/90mmHg. Ideal blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. One reading alone cannot diagnose high blood pressure however, it must be recorded over a period of time.”
“Having high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke and heart attack, so it is very important that if you have it, you are diagnosed and receive and maintain appropriate treatment. The good news however is it is also one of the most preventable causes of these conditions. There are many lifestyle changes we can all make to help reduce our blood pressure including maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular exercise and being more active, reducing salt intake, stopping smoking and cutting back on the amount of alcohol we drink. These changes might sound simple, but they really could help save your life.”
To find out more about high blood pressure and what you can do to reduce your risk, visit https://nichs.org.uk/information/risk-factors/blood-pressure