Hypertension

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) occurs when your blood pressure readings are consistently 140 over 90, or higher, over a number of weeks – or when one of these numbers is consistently higher.

If left untreated, high blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. It can also cause heart and kidney disease, or lead to some forms of dementia.

Causes

High blood pressure is closely linked to diet and lifestyle. Being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and not doing enough exercise can all contribute towards a high blood pressure. Likewise, eating foods that are high in salt and not eating enough fruit and vegetables can also affect blood pressure.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: the older you get, the greater the cumulative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Ethnic origin: individuals from African-Caribbean and South Asian have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure than others
  • Family history: you are at greater risk if other members of your family have, or have had, high blood pressure.
  • Certain medical conditions: High blood pressure is often a symptom of other medical conditions, such as kidney problems

Symptoms

Around 30% of people in England have high blood pressure but many don’t know it. This is because high blood pressure does not have any obvious symptoms. It is therefore important to get your blood pressure checked at least every 5 years.

Diagnosis

To diagnose hypertension, you will need to have your blood pressure checked. This can be done by your GP, nurse or other health professional, or you can do this at home using a home kit.

Treatment

High blood pressure can be treated via a change in diet and lifestyle or medication – or a combination of both. Medications include: ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers and alpha-blockers.

In cases where drugs become ineffective at lowering blood pressure, a minimally invasive procedure called renal denervation may be used to quieten the nerves in the kidney that can cause high blood pressure.