High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Hypertension is the medical name for High Blood Pressure. Many people do not realise that this is a common problem which usually has no symptoms at all. For some people the first time they find out that their blood pressure is high is when they have a heart attack. Severe hypertension can cause headaches or blurred vision but this is quite rare.
It is important to control your blood pressure for several reasons. We are concerned about blood pressure as it is directly linked to your risk of heart attacks and strokes and also leads to damage to your kidneys. In combination with diabetes the risks are even higher. The same is true if you smoke.
Eating more healthily, exercising, reducing stress, keeping your weight within a healthy range and not smoking will help your blood pressure. Some people will need to take tablets to help their blood pressure despite doing all these things. Even if this applies to you, improving your overall health and weight might mean you need less medication to achieve your goal.
Measuring your Blood Pressure at home
If you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing high blood pressure (e.g. family history, diabetes) then having your own blood pressure machine is an essential part of looking after your health. You will only need it from time to time - checking it too often can be counterproductive - but periodically you can check your own BP and this will be a much more representative and helpful measurement than coming in to the surgery to have it done.
To help offer you the best care, what we really need to know is what your blood pressure is like when you are living your day to day life, so doing it at home is actually better than coming in to the surgery for us to check it (our machines are no more accurate than ones you can buy online or at your pharmacy for under £20).
The most important thing is - when you check your BP, don't just do it once. The first reading is usually a bit high, so do 2 or 3 readings spaced out over 5-10 minutes and write down the best one (by best we mean lowest). If you do this twice a day for a week you will have 14 readings - take the average of all the top numbers and separately take the average of all the bottom numbers. (You don't need to worry about your pulse rate).
This average number is what we use to adjust your medication. For most people it should be less than 135/85. If you are over 80, we are usually a bit more relaxed and aim for less than 145/85.
Lifestyle and Blood Pressure
A healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce blood pressure.
If you drink excessively, reducing your alcohol intake can reduce blood pressure and has broader health benefits.
Avoid excessive consumption of coffee and other caffeine-rich products
Keep the amount of salt in your diet low - high levels of salt in your food will increase your blood pressure.
Stop smoking - for help and advice on how to stop, contact Livewell Dorset.