Blood Pressure – what you need to know

Blood pressure refers to the amount of work that our heart has to do to pump blood around the body. It measures how strongly blood presses against the walls of your arteries (large blood vessels) during this process. If this pressure is too high it puts a strain on your arteries and your heart, which makes it more likely that you will suffer a heart attack, a stroke or kidney disease.

Circulatory system disease is the number one cause of death in Ireland. Treatment and detection starts with you.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (which is written as mmHg) and it is recorded as two figures:

  1. Systolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
  2. Diastolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats

The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic) written as 120/80mmHg.

“If you are over 30, it’s best to have your blood pressure checked every year”

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (medically known as hypertension) is when blood pressure readings taken on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it means your blood pressure is consistently higher than it should be. Thankfully, there are several ways to help reduce it which we will talk you through below.

Causes and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

There is often no single cause of high blood pressure and therefore it is really important to check your blood pressure readings regularly. A number of factors can combine to raise blood pressure, and high blood pressure tends to run in families. It is not a disease of a nervous, anxious person or someone with a stressful lifestyle – though these factors can sometimes impact a reading.

In some rare cases, where a person has very high blood pressure, they can experience symptoms including:

  • A persistent headache
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Shortness of breath

Measuring Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you should have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis, even if it is not high. Watching your blood pressure while you are pregnant reduces your risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension. This can lead to a serious condition called pre-eclampsia which harms the placenta (the organ that links the baby’s blood supply to the mother’s).

Haven pharmacies offer blood pressure tests which only take a couple of minutes. We are always on hand to offer advice and measure your blood pressure.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is medically known as hypotension. On its own, low blood pressure does not always cause symptoms. If you have low blood pressure, and you do not have any symptoms, you do not require treatment.

Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure within certain parameters is considered good. However, GPs will look out for symptoms of low blood pressure that may cause concern. These symptoms which can occur when standing up from a seated or lying position or after eating include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Dehydration and unusual thirst
  • Lack of concentration
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Fatigue

Measuring Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure checks are available in your local Haven pharmacy, GPs and health clinics. If you have one high reading, it does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day and night. Therefore, you will need to measure your blood pressure on numerous occasions over a certain period of time. You can purchase a home testing monitor from your Haven pharmacy which will allow you to take readings when you are relaxed throughout the day and night.

“The more blood pressure readings you have, the more accurate your diagnosis will be, particularly as blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and night”

– IrishHeart.ie

Treating Blood Pressure

There are a few key steps that we can all do to prevent high blood pressure:

  1. Know your blood pressure
  2. Aim for a healthy weight
  3. Reduce salt intake and processed food
  4. Eat more fruit and vegetables
  5. Drink less alcohol and caffeine rich drinks such as tea, coffee and soft drinks
  6. Increase exercise
  7. Relaxation therapies such as yoga, meditation and stress management
  8. Don’t smoke – smoking greatly increases your risk of heart and lung disease

Medication is also available for high blood pressure, this should be discussed with your GP.

How Haven Can Help

At Haven pharmacy, we are dedicated to improve the health and well-being of people within our local communities. We are independent with shared goals for the future of Ireland’s health. Drop into your local Haven to discuss blood pressure or to pick up a home blood pressure monitor.

 

Sources: Irish Heart Foundation, Health Service Executive Ireland