High blood pressure is a precursor to heart disease – a major killer worldwide. It raises your risk of chronic disease by damaging your artery walls. As a result of this damage, fatty plaques called cholesterol enter the lining of your artery walls.
Eventually, these fatty plaques narrow or completely block the arteries, cutting off the blood supply to the heart, the consequences can prove fatal.
Unfortunately, this process often goes undetected in the beginning – that’s why health bodies urge you to get your blood pressure measured.
Occasionally, however high blood pressure does produce symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one symptom to watch out for is early morning headaches.
The best evidence indicates that high blood pressure does not cause headaches except in the case of hypertensive crisis, says the American Heart Association (AHA).
As the AHA explains, a hypertensive (high blood pressure or HBP) crisis is when blood pressure rises quickly and severely with readings of 180/120 or greater.
What do these numbers mean?
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers:
- The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
- The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
They’re both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
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According to the NHS, high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
Ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
As the NHS explains, blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure so a reading of 180/120mmHG is severe.
You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
at your GP surgery, at some pharmacies as part of your NHS Health Check, in in some workplaces.
What happens next?
If it is established that your blood pressure is too high, you will be advised to make lifestyle changes to lower it.
Overhauling your diet can offer fast and effective benefits and there are a number of dietary dos and don’ts.
It is imperative that you cut down on salt because the sodium content of salt raises your blood pressure.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), adults should eat less than six grams of salt each day – that’s about one teaspoon.
“This includes the salt that’s contained within ready-made foods like bread, as well as the salt you add during cooking and at the table,” says the BHF.
As it points out, one of the best ways to work out how much salt you’re eating is to check the food label or nutritional information on the packaging of any food you’re buying or eating.
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure,” says the NHS.
For optimal benefits, you should aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, it adds.
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