High blood pressure is something we get warned against, but it’s also a health condition lots of us know little about. Medically known as hypertension, it means that your heart is working hard to push blood around your body, which is why it is hitting the walls of your vessels with higher force. Whether it’s because of weight, diet or stress, high blood pressure can lead to serious illnesses, which is why it’s important to keep yours in check. Low blood pressure can also cause problems because it means you’re not getting enough oxygen around your body.
Unless you’ve had yours measured recently, you probably have no idea what your blood pressure numbers are. So how can you find it out and what can you do to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level?
How can I tell if I have high blood pressure?
There aren’t many symptoms of high blood pressure, especially if yours is only slightly over the threshold. If it’s really high, you might have headaches, unusual problems with your sight and blood shot eyes, find it difficult to breathe at times, feel generally tired and confused or have a pounding feeling in your chest, neck or ears. Low blood pressure can make you feel dizzy and nauseous.
The only way to find out your blood pressure is by measuring it using a monitor. These devices are easy to use. You simply wrap the band around your upper arm or wrist, inflate it and wait while it takes a reading. They’re accurate and will give you a measurement in a matter of seconds. Remember it is important to make sure you are sitting down and are rested before taking your blood pressure.
How often should I check my blood pressure?
Every adult should ideally get their blood pressure checked once every five years at least. Though if you’re concerned about your health, or you know you have high blood pressure, it’s worthwhile checking it more often. A doctor or pharmacist can let you know how often you should check yours, as it depends on your own health and lifestyle. [AF1]
What do the numbers mean on the blood pressure monitor?
Most of us don’t really have a clue what the numbers mean or whether it’s high, low or normal. If you’re taking your blood pressure at home, it’s essential that you understand what the numbers mean so you know where yours is at. There are two numbers on a blood pressure reading and they look like a fraction with one above the other.
Systolic pressure – this is first one or the number on the top. It’s the highest your blood pressure gets when your heart beats.
Diastolic pressure – this is the second one or the number on the bottom. It’s the lowest level the pressure gets between beats.A healthy blood pressure reading is anything between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. Anything outside of those is seen as either high or low, and extremely high blood pressure is anything around the 180/120 mm Hg mark.
You can enter your numbers here to find out what your numbers mean.
When should I take action if I have high blood pressure?
If your blood pressure is over 120/80mmHg, it’s important that you try and reduce it to lower your risk of developing serious illnesses, such as heart disease, strokes and kidney problems.
You should speak to a doctor or a pharmacist if you have high blood pressure (140mg/90mmHg) to find out the best steps to take to get yours back under control and to prevent associated health problems.
What can you do to lower your blood pressure?
We should all try to keep our blood pressure healthy, and there are a few measures that are known to help control it.
Reduce how much salt you eat – sodium is one of two elements in salt and it’s something our bodies need – but too much can cause high blood pressure. Try avoiding processed foods and adding salt to what you eat.
Get moving – keep your heart and blood flow healthy by exercising regularly. Most people should be aiming to do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, plus some muscle strength training (or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise along with the muscle training). Moderate exercise can be anything from a fast-paced walk to playing badminton or a leisurely cycle ride.
Lose weight – if you’re overweight, you’re at more of a risk of developing high blood pressure. Try to slim your waistline by eating fewer high-calorie foods and upping your exercise.
Drink less alcohol and stop smoking – both of these are known to cause high blood pressure – along with many other health problems. Cutting back or stopping all together can make a huge difference to your heart health.
Keep stress at bay – stress is our body’s natural reaction to situations that make us feel anxious and feeling tense too much can take its toll on your heart. If you often feel stressed, it’s important that you take the time to combat it, whether that’s through relaxing exercise like yoga or spending time with friends – or simply doing something you enjoy.
Want to find out your blood pressure?
You can buy your own blood pressure monitor to check yours whenever you like. It only takes a few minutes to use, and it can give you a clearer idea of your overall health.