Blood Pressure. Do you know your numbers?

It's estimated that 7 million people in the UK are not aware they have high blood pressure. Of those, most will have no symptoms at all1. We want to make sure you’re not one of them.

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Why knowing your blood pressure is important

When your blood pressure rises, it increases your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. That’s why it’s so important for you and your doctor to keep an eye on how your blood pressure changes over time.

GP at hand patients aged over 40, and patients with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease or who have had a stroke, please send us your blood pressure results at least annually.

  • Email your blood pressure result to gpathand@nhs.net. Include your full name and post code*.

  • Alternatively, if you’ve received a text message from us asking for your blood pressure reading, you can text your result to us*.

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*You will be sending your information to a secured email/phone number which will then be matched with your clinical records to us. Please read our Privacy policy for information.

How can I check my blood pressure?

Blood pressure is measured using a blood pressure machine (sphygmomanometer). This is a painless cuff that squeezes your upper arm. It then calculates your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

To check your blood pressure:

  • Visit your local pharmacy, as they often have blood pressure machines on site that you can use for free

  • Buy a blood pressure machine online. They're typically £20. (Look for a ‘validated monitor’ that is appropriate for home use and goes on the upper arm, not the wrist)

  • Book a face-to-face appointment with a nurse/healthcare assistant.

How to read your blood pressure

A blood pressure machine measures two things:

Systolic blood pressure: The blood pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts (squeezes the blood out)

Diastolic blood pressure: The blood pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes

A blood pressure reading is often referred to as “one hundred and twenty OVER eighty” or “one hundred and forty OVER ninety”.

  • 120/80 means - 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic

  • 140/90 means - 140 mmHg systolic and 90 mmHg diastolic

What should your blood pressure be?

Most healthcare professionals will say that 120/80 is a GOOD blood pressure. What this means is that most people with a blood pressure of 120/80 will be at low risk of heart disease or strokes.

140/90 and above is considered a HIGH blood pressure. If you are a GP at hand patient, we recommend that you book a digital consultation to further discuss your blood pressure if it is above 140/90. If you’re not a GP at hand patient, please discuss it with your GP practice.

0385 Blood Pressure Graph

Please note: if your blood pressure is 180/110 or higher, you need to book an appointment with a doctor the same day. A blood pressure that high might need more urgent treatment.

Your blood pressure varies throughout the day depending on whether you’re sat having a cup of tea or going for a jog. For this reason, it is important to take your blood pressure reading whilst sitting down and at a variety of times throughout the day.

A pharmacist can explain how to take your blood pressure accurately. Or you can watch this really useful video from the British Heart Foundation.

Reducing your blood pressure (or preventing a raised blood pressure)

Small increases or decreases in blood pressure can have a significant impact on your health. The following tips can help you prevent getting a high blood pressure or reduce your blood pressure if it is creeping up3:

Exercise

A minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week will do. This can include walking, cycling or anything that gets you moving.

Reducing alcohol consumption

Keeping your alcohol intake to within recommended guidelines will help. That’s 14 units/week for women and 21 units/week for men.

Healthy eating

A diet that is balanced and not high in salt, aiming for less than 6g a day (around 1 teaspoon).

Weight loss

Being overweight or obese increases blood pressure, but losing weight will reduce it.

Keeping an eye on caffeine

The NHS recommends less than 5 cups of tea or coffee a day.

Relaxation therapies

Such as yoga or meditation.

References

  1. BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION. 6 things you need to know about high blood pressure [online] Accessed 20/2/2019
  2. NICE. Hypertension in Adults: Diagnosis and Management [online] Last updated November 2016. Accessed 20/2/2019.
  3. NHS INFORM. High Blood Pressure (hypertension) [online] Last updated December 2018. Accessed 20/2/2019.