Between 30%-40% of Irish adults have high blood pressure, which is also termed hypertension. Blood pressure is the measurement of how strongly your blood presses against the walls of your arteries as it is pumped around your body. We’ve compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions about high blood pressure, knowing that with education and information you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, vascular conditions and future ill health.

1.What causes High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is a variable reading, open to differences due to physical activity, eating, sleeping and stress. However the development of high blood pressure is a more permanent condition and can occur due to a lack of physical activity, poor diet, obesity, genetics, and as a natural part of the ageing process.

2.What are the systolic and diastolic blood pressures?

A blood pressure reading is always measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is written as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure measures the force of the blood against the artery walls as your heart beats. The diastolic pressure which is the lowest of the readings measures the blood pressure between heart beats. As an example a blood pressure measurement is written as 130/80mmHg or “130 over 80”. The systolic reading is 130 and the diastolic pressure is 80.

3.What is a normal blood pressure measurement?

Blood pressure measurements may be classified as:

  • A normal or ideal blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 120mmHg or less and the diastolic pressure measuring 80mmHg or less.
  • A systolic reading between 120-139mmHg or a diastolic pressure between 80-89mmHg may be considered normal but is slightly higher than it should be.
  • A systolic pressure of consistently 140mmHg or more and/or a diastolic blood pressure of consistently 90mmHg or more is considered hypertensive (high blood pressure).

4.What Health problems are linked to high blood pressure

There are potentially quite serious health conditions linked to hypertension (high blood pressure) such as:

  • Atherosclerosis: a dangerous disease of the arteries, caused by a build up of plaque or fatty material that sticks to the inside walls of the blood vessels. High Blood Pressure adds to this build-up by placing further stress and force on the artery walls, causing them to harden.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: heart disease and heart failure is when the heart can’t adequately pump blood around the body, ischaemic heart disease is a lack of blood to the heart tissue and cardiomyopathy is an enlargement of the heart that hardens the heart and lessens the pumping ability. All these conditions are associated with high blood pressure.
  • Stroke: hypertension is a leading contributor to stroke. Either by supporting the process of atherosclerosis (which causes blockages and clots to form) or by the weakening of the blood vessel walls and causing them to rupture.
  • Kidney Disease: high blood pressure may damage the blood vessels and filters in the kidneys, preventing the kidneys from excreting waste efficiently.

5.Will I know if I have high blood pressure?

Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure doesn’t usually present with symptoms. For that reason high blood pressure is usually diagnosed by a health care professional on a regular visit. It is extremely important to have your blood pressure measured if you have a family history of high blood pressure or if you, yourself have risk factors. However if your blood pressure is extremely high, you may experience an abnormally intense headache, chest pain or heart failure (exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing) and we advise that you seek medical advice immediately.

6.How will they treat high blood pressure?

From making lifestyle changes, to being prescribed drug therapy, there are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure and there are many factors that you can affect in a positive way:

  • Losing weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Consuming a healthy heart diet
  • Eliminating or reducing the salt intake in your diet
  • Engage in regular aerobic exercise
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe high blood pressure medication including, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotension receptor blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

7.When to seek medical advice about high blood pressure.

Once you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s vital that you are proactive in addressing it and continue to see your doctor on a regular basis.

  • We recommend speaking to your GP if you aren’t responding to your prescribed treatment plan and your blood pressure is still high.
  • Consult with your GP if you are experiencing side effects from your blood pressure medication. Your doctor may adjust or change your medication to ensure your treatment plan is successful.

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22nd Mar 2018

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