It is estimated that 30-40% of people in Ireland have high blood pressure, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. It is important to know what your blood pressure is and if you are at risk of developing high blood pressure, so you can make any preventative lifestyle changes. I always recommend getting your blood pressure measured by your local pharmacist or doctor every other year, and ideally once a year if you are aged 60 or over. Blood pressure is measures in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), and is recorded as two figures, systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Having a blood pressure reading under 120/80mmHg is optimal, with a reading of 140/90mmHg or higher is considered as high blood pressure.
Your chances of having high blood pressure increase as you get older but there are other risk factors that increase your likelihood:
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of high blood pressure
- Being of African or Caribbean descent
- Consuming too much salt
- Consuming too much alcohol
- Not consuming enough fruit and vegetables
- Not exercising enough
- Having a high amount of stress in your life
If you fall into any of the above categories it is advisable to make some lifestyle changes to help prevent and treat high blood pressure. In addition to these changes, medication may be needed to treat your high blood pressure if you are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. There are a wide range of blood pressure lowering medicines you doctor may choose for you such as ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers or alpha-blockers. In more serious cases, more than one type of medication made be needed to treat the high blood pressure. Your doctor will decide how to treat you high blood pressure but the below guidelines will give you an idea of whether it is lifestyle changes or medication you need:
- If your blood pressure is 130/80mmHg or higher, and you’re not at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, making changes to your lifestyle should lower your blood pressure.
- If your blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or higher, and you’re at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, treatment will involve lifestyle changes and medication.
- If your blood pressure is in stage 2 hypertension (160/110mmHg) or higher, immediate medication and possibly further tests will be needed.
If you are due to have your blood pressure measured, pop into us at the pharmacy and we’ll be more than happy to take and explain your reading to you. In addition, we have a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring service that has launched in the pharmacy so chat to a member of our staff if this is something that interests you.